Suffolk Businesses and Water Companies Unite to Tackle Climate Change Challenges
“Don’t stifle our growth and job creation plans – and help us better adapt to climate change” was the key message coming out of the recent (19th June) successful water summit that for the first time brought the county’s two water companies and its leading manufacturers together in high-level discussions.
Hosted by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, the meeting heard from both Geoff Darch, Anglian Water’s Head of Supply Demand Strategy at Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water’s Water Resources & Supply Strategy Manager, Will Robinson, as well as water retailer Wave Utilities and the Environment Agency, which is responsible for issuing water abstraction licences.
All these organisations emphasised that they were looking to work better with businesses to help reduce water usage, in line with the tighter regime being put in place by the Environment Agency.
Whilst both companies are investing over the longer-term in new infrastructure options (such as additional reservoirs, new intra-regional pipelines and prospectively, desalination plants) to avoid water shortages by both business and domestic users, their current emphasis is on helping to improve companies’ water conservation techniques by driving down usage levels.
Suffolk business voice
In turn, many of the businesses present, which already collectively employ tens of thousands of people, including Adnams, Cranswick Country Foods, Euroapi, Greene King, Konings and Poundfield Products highlighted the challenges they are facing in delivering their growth plans whilst also being significant users of water due to their respective manufacturing processes.
A number emphasised that if additional water, from whatever sources, was not secured over the long-term they may have to consider relocating some or all of their operations to other parts of the country.
The meeting heard of a company outside of Suffolk which had plans for a major expansion only to find that they could not go ahead because no new abstraction licences are currently being granted.
“It was just this type of scenario that we want to avoid in Suffolk” explained Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s Head of Public Affairs. “The water summit was a good first step in ensuring that the realities facing the water and manufacturing sectors are mutually understood in order to improve how we can all adapt to the increasing scarcity of water.”
The summit identified a number of short-term steps aimed at helping manufacturing firms, in particular, to prepare for a more challenging water supply future:
• Improved communications between water wholesalers and retailers so that the most up-to-date information is being relayed to business users
• Water companies to use Suffolk Chamber’s extensive reach into the business community to provide regular best practice updates and case studies
• The water companies to more regularly share their forecasts of non-domestic water demand and businesses to provide timely estimates of future water requirements
• Suffolk Chamber and the water companies to lobby Government on abstraction reform and possibly an option to re-classify food production companies such that water companies have a legal duty to supply them water – unlike at present
• Galvanise business support for both current and future planning proposals for additional reservoirs
“Suffolk’s manufacturers are an essential element in our county’s ongoing business success. They are already adapting to operating with lower levels of water and through a range of recycling schemes. We hope that the water summit will lead to improved support for them as they adapt to a more water-scarce business environment” explained Toby Warren, Suffolk Chamber’s senior policy officer.
Grant Tuffs, Anglian Water’s regional engagement manager, added: "We are very grateful to Suffolk Chambers of Commerce for facilitating this meeting. Water is vital for Suffolk's environment and economy; by working together with businesses we can better plan and manage this essential resource."
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