One of RAPID’s roles is to act as an enabler to the effective implementation of the Water Resources National Framework. This includes co-ordinating the collaborative work of the five regional water resources groups and supporting the independent chair of the Senior Steering Group. It also includes identifying, tracking and mitigating risks associated with the development of regional plans and supporting coordination across government and regulators in England and Wales.
Defra, Welsh Government and the partner regulators are committed to working with water users to help deliver a transformed approach to water resource planning, aligning national, regional and local needs. RAPID seeks collaborative solutions to issues that emerge, working with a wider pool of regulators including Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Natural England (NE). In October 2020, Paul Hickey wrote to all the water companies and the regional groups about the future of water resource management and how strategic water resource options can be delivered in a way that provides value beyond public water supply.
The programme of strategic water resource solutions which progress through the gated process should emerge through the regional planning process. RAPID is also developing and using evidence to help shape regional plans, particularly where a national perspective is required, such as water resources modelling at an England and Wales level.
Regional water resource plans
Each regional group published an emerging plan for consultation on 17 January 2022. These plans are intended to:
- Signal early sight of the big challenges and candidate solutions (including strategic water resource solutions in the RAPID programme) to get initial feedback from stakeholders.
- Report outputs from the inter-regional reconciliation and best value selection processes.
- Be widely available and a way of gathering broad views from interested parties.
- Represent an important step in an ongoing process of plan development. The revised plans expected in the autumn will inform whether individual strategic water resource solutions included in the RAPID programme will progress.
These January 2022 emerging regional plans are not a statutory water resource management plan with associated data tables or a formal preferred plan. However, regulators will be reviewing the emerging plans and providing feedback to the regional groups to raise any issues that need to be addressed before the next round of plans.
Ofwat’s responses to the regional plans can be found here.
Senior steering group
The steering group (SSG) is made up of representatives of water companies and regional groups, other water using sectors, regulators, governments and environmental non-government organisations (NGOs). Members of the steering group have the opportunity to shape the implementation of the national framework.
The regulators also use the group to make sure those represented, particularly water companies and regional groups, are in a position to use the outputs of the work and achieve resilient water supplies. Part of this is in setting clear expectations of both the regional groups and the individual water companies on how we are looking to them to drive action to improve regional planning for water resources.
The monthly regional co-ordination group ensures all the regional plans align and is an opportunity to surface and resolve issues at a working level. The membership of this group is made up from the leads of each of the five regional groups and government/regulators.
RAPID modelling work
While each of the regional groups focuses on regional needs, RAPID is focusing on the national picture. This includes identifying, tracking and mitigating risks associated with the development of regional plans and challenging the groups to innovate and explore opportunities to deliver wider benefits.
RAPID is also developing evidence such as the outputs of its England and Wales scale water resources modelling to support long-term decision making in this area.