Integrated Water Management Framework Phase 1

Integrated Water Management
The project has delivered its first phase, incepted in October 2021 and finished in June 2022. Phase 1 of the project focused on gathering evidence and building our knowledge to explore challenges that we face in creating water resilient places, as well as highlighting new opportunities to integrate water planning and delivery systems to help overcome these challenges. We’ve used the findings and recommendations of Phase 1 as the foundation to help us start to scope Phase 2 project workstreams and activities.

Water systems baseline:

Mapped the existing pressures and hotspots (where there are multiple issues)
To establish a holistic baseline for water systems, we have brought together key data from: River Basin Management Plans, Water Resource Management Plans, Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans and Flood Risk Programmes.
This highlighted some existing challenges:
  • Out of 346 water bodies in the Oxford to Cambridge area, currently only 190 meet their WFD overall status objective.
  • There are significant water supply pressures in the Oxford to Cambridge and surrounding areas, with multiple waterbodies failing flow targets during low flows (e.g. in summer). This is forecast to worsen due to increased pressure from the impacts of development and climate change.
  • Water resources are also of critical importance to agriculture (particularly spray irrigation), power supply, industry, and food and drink processing.
  • Around 50,000 properties and 17% of the Oxford to Cambridge land area are at risk of fluvial flooding once every 100 years. 12,000 properties (6.5% of land) benefit from flood defences. More than 7,000 properties are at risk of surface water flooding once every 100 years.
  • Current technological limits to wastewater treatment are likely to place a limit on where additional wastewater can be discharged without impacting WFD status.

systems Mapping

Mapped the links across the water environment to show how interventions and policies have wider implications
With technical experts through a series of mapping sessions, the project mapped interactions and dependencies across environmental systems (river water quality, water resources and flooding); water utilities (PWS and wastewater treatment); spatial planning and land use; and agricultural systems. These system maps were then interlinked to provide us with a common, more coherent view of the existing systems a ‘system of systems’ to help us take a more integrated, whole system holistic ‘bigger picture approach’.
The creation of the system maps served the following five objectives:
  1. To create insights and participant buy-in, to foster improved collaboration and participation
  2. To clarify the categorisation of interventions/options and benefits across the different systems.
  3. To identify system linkages and potential co-benefits of interventions/options and policy priorities.
  4. To validate the selection of criteria for use in the MCA.
  5. To enable prioritisation of effort on numerical modelling of the systems in future.

Options appraisal

Assessed generic options to show how investments have benefits, and dis-benefits, beyond their core purpose
There are four primary aspects of water planning (water resources, wastewater, environment and flooding) that are currently appraised in a largely siloed manner using different approaches, across different spatial scales.
Through Phase 1 we looked to develop a consistent approach to planning, so that it would be possible for options with benefits to more than one system to be included for appraisal in more than one planning framework. We identified a common set of metrics and planning assumptions, to demonstrate the potential to select options that work together for increased benefits across the planning frameworks.
For planning to become more integrated it is necessary to agree:
  • A common set of metrics.
  • A common set of planning assumptions.
  • A consistent set of management targets and performance thresholds.
  • A common set of scenarios.
  • A consistent categorisation of option types.
Phase 1 of this IWMF Programme undertook a high-level review of the benefits of different option types and trialled a modelling exercise to assess how benefits could be scored.

Planning timescales

Realising an integrated approach to water management will require greater, more effective co-ordination of the existing planning processes for the four-core water sub-systems: water resources, wastewater, flooding and environment. A key challenge for an Oxford to Cambridge IWMF (and nationally) is that these four aspects of water planning are currently appraised at very different spatial scales and through very different approaches and differing timescales/planning cycles.
Through Phase 1 we have built an understanding of timing and sequencing of planning for water and represented them through:
  • A high-level view of interdependencies in planning frameworks
  • A high-level view of planning timelines
  • A combined view of these
We hope by developing this baseline understanding, we will be able to further explore the relationships, identify and trial better linked between the processes and plans through Phase 2 of the IWMF programme.

IWM standards

Building on the water baseline assessment and systems mapping understanding, we have investigated a series of IWM requirements/intervention options to support the opportunity to build IWM into planning policy, design standards, and place making.
Examples of high-level conclusions from Phase 1 include:
  • Water efficiency measures, such as water efficient devices and smart metering, are likely to be cost effective in all new developments and worthwhile to reduce the demand for water and wastewater services.
  • Retrofitting homes so that water demand of new properties (that are allocated in existing local plans) is wholly offset would need to be so ambitions that it is likely to be impractical.
  • Nutrient neutrality of all new properties in the Oxford to Cambridge area could be technically achievable for the area overall on an annual basis through enhanced wastewater treatment and offsetting. However, it may not be achievable in a way that mitigates environmental damage due to seasonal differences between nitrate loading from agricultural runoff and wastewater.