Rivers Trust autumn conference 2016: The Partnership approach & assessing the benefits of catchment management
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Members of theme 5 (Catchments) attended the Rivers Trust (RT) conference, an annual event which brings together practitioners, academia, industry and the third sector to discuss the work being done in catchment across the UK.
The conference was based around the theme of partnership working and the benefits this can deliver. For the water industry we heard how partnering allows access to funds unavailable to them as private companies, offers a ‘trusted broker’ who is able to engage with farmers and land managers, and helps deliver reputation benefits with their customers. For the RT and other third sector organisations we heard how partnering can bring in vital funding, allowing projects to go ahead which would not be possible if valued on, for example, biodiversity alone. By partnering with water companies the RT is able to include benefits to water quality in the business case of a project. As well as ‘the partnership approach’, a common theme in the conference was how to scale up evidence from laboratory to field to catchment and eventually to policy. Although benefits have been proven, usually at the sub-catchment scale, there was a general feeling that these successes needed to be communicated to policy makers. Part of this problem arises from the difficulty in valuing things like access to green space, an issue with proven public health benefits but which is difficult to assign a pound value to, or how to balance this against other needs such as house building. Brexit was mentioned in nearly every presentation as an opportunity for reform of how land is managed but also a source of great uncertainty and future policy remains unclear.
The topics of the conference fit well with the research being done in the catchments theme of TWENTY-65 as we’re working to scale up the monitoring of water quality to full catchment scale and in doing so help value the impact of changing water raw quality for water companies. To achieve this we’re working with the Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency, the National Park Authority and multiple water companies to engage with stakeholders in the catchment and develop meaningful models which can inform policy and industry