A new UK-wide interactive map of public water engagement projects is now being designed to help further understanding of what effective partnerships look like to help improve water services across the country.
Led by the TWENTY65 project, which aims to generate an energised and dynamic water sector to deliver sustainable water solutions that positively impact the environment, public health, the economy and society, the map and database will help raise awareness and the profile of mobilisation activities as one form of water management in the UK.
Mobilisations are partnerships between water organisations, households and local communities, designed to improve water efficiency, water quality, drainage and flooding.
Strategies may include asking people to take shorter showers, install water butts, avoid flushing wet wipes down the drain, not disposing of fat down the sink and so on. But they may also see environmental interest groups work alongside communities to spot and report pollution problems, or working with farmers to minimise pesticide runoff.
An online database of projects would celebrate effective partnerships, enable learning across projects, organisations and localities, and also enable evaluation of what issues aren’t being covered and which publics are not currently being engaged.
Those that are unable to contribute to the database, for whatever reason, can still help spread the word by posting about it on social media channels using the hashtag #actionforwaterUK.
Water utilities around the country face significant challenges in the future, ranging from service expectations and climate change to austerity and ageing infrastructure.
As these challenges crop up, suppliers turn to familiar technical solutions but perhaps don’t consider how cultural or behavioural interventions could tackle the same problems more effectively and at a reduced cost.
The aforementioned mobilisation initiatives can already be seen in some water service areas but, as the TWENTY65 project observes, implementation of these is ad hoc and evaluation is limited, with practitioners finding they have nowhere to turn to for good practice in this regard.
“There is a need to address this problem, and to treat processes of mobilisation as worthy of ‘knowledge-based policy-making’ as other fields.
“There is also a need to recognise, support and value expertise in these social aspects of water management, whether this be in the study and theorisation of them (academic expertise) or in the design and delivery of initiatives (practitioner expertise),” it was observed.
People and businesses alike are now being encouraged to get involved with the project, whether that’s to let the researchers know about initiatives that are being developed or those that involve participation between the public and service providers.