Utility Week

UTILITY Week 22nd July 2016

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

Issue link: https://fhpublishing.uberflip.com/i/705855

Contents of this Issue


Page 6 of 31

UTILITY WEEK | 22ND - 28TH JULY 2016 | 7 Interview H eading into central London, I am caught in a sud- den and heavy downpour that has become syn- onymous with the British summer. Aer dashing into the offices of the Environment Agency and drying myself off as best I can, I head up to meet two of the new executive directors: John Curtin, who focuses on flood and coastal risk management, and Harvey Bradshaw, whose area of expertise is the environment and business. For the duo, who are chatting away when I enter the boardroom, dealing with the challenges of the UK's changing climate is only one of the issues they have to tackle. Climate change and population growth dominate the agenda, but so too does the need to achieve more with less, and finding innovative ways of pooling ideas to make that happen. Topically, and some would say typically because the sudden downpour has now made way for clear blue skies taunting us through the window, our conversation begins with the issue of flooding. The pair started in their roles on an acting basis in September "a couple of months before it started raining" and the winter floods of 2015 hit, according to Curtin. Recalling his early days in the new role, he adds: "It was a microcosm of flood risk in just a few months. In my first few months, there was major flooding in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Lancashire and the northeast. There were Cobra meetings and select committees and we now look at national flood resilience in a different way." Bradshaw says that although his department at the agency was not directly affected by these events, "my early days were shaped by the flooding too". He says the EA is a "two-speed organisation", which provides a direct and immediate response to major events such as flooding, and undertakes longer-term work dealing with the dual challenges presented by cli- mate change and population growth. This, the two agree, is made more difficult by the impact the government's spending review has had on EA funding. The government's money to the agency – which represents a quarter of the cash it receives – is reducing from £2.3 billion in 2016/17 to £1.9 billion in 2019/20. Both Curtin and Bradshaw appear keen to play down the significance of the cuts, and their positive outlook shines through when they tell Utility Week they are tack- ling the challenge with the help of the water companies. Bradshaw outlines the difficulties that the EA and the water companies are facing: the increasing extremes of heavier periods of rainfall, longer drier spells, and an increased abstraction from the natural environment. "Water companies need to plan for the future to understand what kind of demand management is neces- sary. Big progress has been made in terms of leakage and water efficiency, but more is needed," he says. "Resilience," pipes up Curtin. This applies as much to how water is taken from the environment as to how it is dealt with when there are is too much. Curtin says there has been a "cluster of floods" since 2012 and that this has shied thinking around the best way to mitigate the impact of heavy and prolonged rain- fall, as well as long periods of dry weather. The solution is a simple one: catchment-wide thinking. "I've oen talked about flood risk as a mosaic. There are big schemes, but there are also community resilience

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Utility Week - UTILITY Week 22nd July 2016