Jacobs is part of the winning team, collaborating with lead partners United Utilities and The Rivers Trust, alongside Mott MacDonald, to be awarded an $10.3 million (£8.2m) Ofwat Innovation Fund in the Transform Stream of Ofwat’s latest innovation competition, Water Breakthrough Challenge 3 – focused on large-scale, long-term, game-changing innovations. The fund will support a national five-year program of work aimed at mainstreaming water catchment and nature-based solutions (NBS) for delivery at scale across the U.K. It brings together a strong coalition of allies from different disciplines and cultures to reframe existing problems, co-create solutions and drive long-term transformation.
The program is one of 16 solutions being awarded a share of the $50m (£40m) innovation fund, established by Ofwat, the Water Services Regulation Authority for England and Wales, to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovate, enabling it to better meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment. It is encouraging new ways of working that go beyond business-as-usual innovation practices in the water industry, increasing and improving collaboration and building partnerships from within and outside the water sector.
Our water environment confronts multiple challenges: from deteriorating polluted watercourses to drought and flood events exacerbated by climate change, socio-political pressures, affordability challenges, population growth and ageing assets. These pressures are all interconnected and addressing them effectively requires water companies and wider industry to work in innovative, collaborative and adaptive ways, thinking of the natural environment they rely on, the infrastructure they operate and the communities that they serve, as integrated systems.
Traditional approaches alone are not enough. NBS delivered at scale can play a critical role in addressing multiple challenges faced by the water environment and other societal problems like climate change and biodiversity decline – by creating future resilience, adding socio-economic value, connecting the landscape and supporting sustainable development. Investment and delivery of NBS needs to be more integrated to enable greater adoption and implementation at scale. This will provide added value to customers as well as a more resilient water environment.
“The water sector has faced mounting pressure over systemic challenges related to the environment and society, while the climate around us continues to drastically change shape,” says CEO at Ofwat David Black. “That’s why we’re funding ground-breaking innovations with potential to help us save and reuse water and wastewater products, while supporting wider society.”
“The Ofwat Innovation Fund recognizes exceptional ideas which will help our water sector better meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment. We are very pleased to partner with United Utilities and other key stakeholders to deliver this important program of works, which will see nature-based solutions delivered at scale. This national collaborative framework will enable multiple benefits for communities and the environment, as well as tangible cost savings for customers.”
Jacobs alongside partners has secured Ofwat Innovation funding to create a national collaborative program of works to mainstream nature-based solutions. Through a multi-disciplinary team of 22 partner organizations working together to create and test new solutions, this program seeks to unlock water catchment and nature-based solutions and implement them at scale. By removing identified barriers at scale, building risk resiliency of landscape and assets, and enabling added value decision-making, the best possible solutions can be delivered for customers, the environment and society.
Current key barriers include a lack of standardized approaches to assess, design, deliver, verify and report on the effectiveness of NBS; a lack of cost-effective monitoring and robust data and evidence; the need for a balanced regulatory framework for NBS; and the need for clear investment pathways for NBS to enable investment and delivery at scale. A key element of the program will focus on mechanisms to unlock investment opportunities, attract new investment and utilize current funds more wisely.
The program will be delivered through five key workstreams:
- Coordination, steer and collaboration at national scale
- Working with regulators and policymakers to enable policy and regulation for NBS
- Investment mechanisms for NBS
- Standardization and integration
- Making it relevant and tangible
Mainstreaming NBS offers multiple benefits across water quality, biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, health and wellbeing, jobs and economic growth, climate change adaptation and cost savings. It will also help maximize value for all U.K. water industry stakeholders, through aligned planning and delivery; integration with grey infrastructure; inclusive collaboration; and assessment of benefits and risks based on added value to customers, society and the environment.
“The Ofwat Innovation Fund recognizes exceptional ideas which will help our water sector better meet the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment,” says Jacobs People & Places Solutions Senior Vice President Europe Kate Kenny. “We are very pleased to partner with United Utilities and other key stakeholders to deliver this important program of works, which will see nature-based solutions delivered at scale. This national collaborative framework will enable multiple benefits for communities and the environment, as well as tangible cost savings for customers.”
“Working in partnership with Unities Utilities and all other partner organizations involved in delivering this Ofwat-funded project will facilitate a collaborative approach to overcome current challenges and accelerate the embedment of nature-based solutions,” adds Jacobs Head of Water, U.K. and Europe, Phil Higgins. “Nature-based solutions are key to complementing more traditional water infrastructure and they will help us provide more resilient solutions for the future by both protecting the environment and delivering wider social value benefits for our communities.”
The benefits of the proposed program of work align with the ambitions laid out in Ofwat's strategic priorities, the UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy, the 25-Year Environment Plan, the PR24 Methodology, the WINEP revised methodology, the Environment Act, and the UK Water Net Zero 2030 Roadmap.
More information about the winners of the Water Breakthrough Challenge can be found here.
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