Lindsay Hargreaves addresses Westminster Forum on national water resources management

First published: 10 October 2022

An image of Anglian Water

Ahead of Ofwat's PR24 (Price Review 2024), Lindsay Hargreaves, who represents the NFU on the WRE (Water Resources East) board, spoke to the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum to emphasise why farming needs recognition as an essential sector.

Lindsay Hargreaves presented to the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum on the 30 September at an event on the ‘Next steps for England’s water market and price review 2024’.

2024 price review

The Water Services Regulation Authority Ofwat has set out its draft methodology for the upcoming PR24, with a focus on securing better outcomes for customers and the environment.

PR24, which will cover the period 2025-2030, will drive water companies to step up to deliver in the face of urgent challenges on the environment and climate change. The review will push companies to find new and innovative ways of delivering affordable, reliable and resilient water services for all.

Ofwat has highlighted four key ambitions for PR24:

  • Focus on the long term.
  • Deliver greater environmental and social value.
  • Reflect a clearer understanding of customers and communities.
  • Drive improvements through efficiency and innovation.

The farming viewpoint

Mr. Hargreaves presented the farming viewpoint to the forum to discuss a positive way to move forward for the environment alongside achieving food production.

Mr. Hargreaves discussed the following key points:

  • Water for irrigation of food crops is vital if Government food strategy is to be met.
  • Agriculture needs to be integral to the cross-sector development of national water resources management. Cross sector-development needs to consider how innovative solutions can be delivered by the public water sector alone.
  • There is an opportunity to build on the work of the regional planning groups within the national water framework to provide a platform for analysis and debate, facilitating true cross-sector working and informing individual sector planning.
  • There is an urgent need for a water resources plan for agriculture to put it on an equal footing with public water supply.
  • Food security is as important as public water supply security.
  • Environmental protection and clean rivers are as essential to agriculture as they are to everyone else.
  • Delivering the level of environmental ambition indicated will necessitate much closer working with farmers and landowners on the ground.

Cross-sector working needed

Mr. Hargreaves concluded his presentation by stating that water resources planning and management in this country has reached a critical point where effective and properly funded cross-sector working is the most likely route to success.

Farming is willing to play its part both as a contributor in developing environmental gains and as an abstractor of water for food and farming.

Farming needs proper recognition as an essential sector. It needs access to a sustainable water supply. It needs work alongside public water systems, environmental interests and other sector users to develop robust and durable strategies.

Mr. Hargreaves urged that there is a real need for sector recognition and that the regulatory process can respond to provide the resources and mechanisms required.

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