Opinion: Water's critical race to Net Zero
The water supply chain will play a key role to help the UK water industry meet the critical Net Zero 2030 Routemap. Lila Thompson explains why we will need to innovate and collaborate together to get there.
A spotlight on the supply community
The launch of the Net Zero 2030 Routemap for England’s water companies puts a spotlight on the sector’s supply community, with Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty describing its role in meeting the ambitious target as “absolutely critical”.
British Water is proud to be part of the world's first sector to launch a collective plan to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2030. We welcome the prominence given to the supply chain, which, as the backbone of the global water industry, has not always been given the profile it deserves.
However, as the industry faces unprecedented environmental and economic challenges, against the backdrop of Covid-19 and Brexit, a bigger emphasis has been placed by utilities and regulators on collaboration. There is greater recognition of the skills running through all levels of the supply chain, along with its leading research and development capabilities.
“The route map is one of the biggest acknowledgements to date by the industry of the power of partnerships in water.”
The route map is one of the biggest acknowledgements to date by the industry of the power of partnerships in water.
In a 10-point plan detailed within the report, it commits to "constructing plans, and engaging with suppliers, in a way that provides the confidence needed to invest in their own capabilities".
Digital is key to decarbonisation
At the plan's virtual launch on 12 November 2020, it was heartening to hear McGourty, as head of the UK water companies' trade association describes the supply chain as "our friends and partners".
"We need each other more than ever on this," she added. "We have a very close working relationship with our sister trade associations, like British Water, and we'll be working more closely than ever to take this forward. There have been plenty of conversations, and we need more, to innovate together and collaborate together in the months and years ahead."
This approach poses great opportunities for suppliers, with accelerated leak reduction, digital tools, nature-based solutions, and catchment management, among the many carbon-reducing measures set out in the plan, alongside deployment of electric vehicles and renewable power installations.
We're privileged to have seen innovations in many of these areas, as well as in smart, data-led technologies that can accelerate the digitalisation of water and wastewater networks, the key to the decarbonisation of the sector.
Aligning all strands of the sector
While British Water members tell us they have felt frustration at the rate of uptake of new technologies by water companies, there is an increasing momentum that is aligning all strands of the sector, encouraging conversations and strengthening relationships.
“Members tell us they have felt frustration at the rate of uptake of new technologies by water companies, but there is increasing momentum.”
New initiatives – such as Ofwat's AMP7 innovation fund – act as a launchpad for technological advancements. As a world-first, the route map's progress will be observed closely, not only by the UK government as it pursues its wider net zero 2050 target but by global industries.
The challenge ahead for the sector should not be underestimated, but neither should the opportunities.
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