As the clock ticks down on another AMP cycle, the weather turns colder and political uncertainty continues to dominate news headlines, it is hard to think positively about future business prospects. For the water industry though, it is time to look beyond their own company walls.
It is hard to truly catapult a business forward if the whole company is caught up in “AMP thinking”, making incremental changes year-on-year to stay within the all constraining regulation. Where is the space for innovation when budgets are tight and margin trimming is the order of the day?
There is one beacon of light in the industry, however, where looking a different way at an age-old problem has propelled water and water consumption up the social agenda. Harnessing the might of global organisations and funding partners as well as mobilising the local community through education and volunteering organisations. Step forward the Hull Living With Water Partnership.
Despite achieving the highest recent economic growth in Yorkshire after it was nominated as the UK’s City of Culture in 2017 – and Hull City Council’s investment in the public realms – Hull remains the second biggest flood risk in the UK outside the Thames estuary area. The Living with Water Partnership was set up to tackle Hull’s unique flooding challenges and is the perfect example of how extending beyond geographical borders can bring real benefits close to home.
Early in the project, the team won their ambitious bid to become part of the City Water Resilience Framework project. This is a pilot run by the Rockefeller Foundation led by Arup, with support from the World Bank, the University of Massachusetts and the Stockholm International Water Institute. Hull is the only European city and one of only five globally working on this pioneering project. The team draws on the knowledge and experiences of the partner cities (Mexico City, Miami, Amman, and Cape Town). By working collaboratively they recognise that Hull’s problems are the same as those faced by major cities around the world. By linking up and sharing common problems, it is possible to come up with solutions on a global scale.
Lee Pitcher, Yorkshire Water’s head of resilience, is the general manager of the partnership. He says its success is the result of the bravery of the vision and the open mindset of the team. “Resilience is about helping our customers understand how they can help themselves and be part of a more inclusive solution.”
With this is mind, the partnership created the HULL-TIMATE Challenge, an urban obstacle course in Hull that taught participants about flood warnings and planning for flood resistance. In the run-up to the main event, the team worked with schools, the National Citizen Service and their youth projects as well as mobilising 200 City of Culture volunteers to help run the day. The project touched more than 10,000 residents and 1,200 children from 21 schools.
Success depended on collaboration between City and County councils, the Environment Agency and, in this case, Yorkshire Water. If we are serious about tackling the water industry’s challenges, then it is only sensible to engage the wider community.
The Living with Water Partnership is a blueprint for what is achievable when a water company collaborates with external agencies to solve an urgent problem. Ofwat stresses that resilience and innovation are essential for the industry – it’s time to think bigger and be braver about where future growth lies. AMP thinking will only take you so far.