THE BIG SOCIETY IN AGRICULTURAL WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Posted: Tuesday 29th March 2011

The Government’s Big Society programme aims to take power away from politicians, central government and government agencies and transfer it to community level. For water allocation and abstraction management, this will be in the context of increasing demand and decreasing summer resources due to population growth and climate change.

At Water & Environment 2011: CIWEM’s Annual Conference, Dr Keith Weatherhead from Cranfield University Centre for Water Science will be discussing the prospects of expanding user control of abstraction, potential conflicts and possible solutions.

Present UK water allocation is under centralised government control via individual abstraction licences. In the farming sector, many of these licences are very small, despite deregulation and raised de minimis levels. Licence conditions often unnecessarily restrict the timing, amount and flexibility of abstraction. As a result, often much of the licensed volume is unused, even in dry years. Present plans seem to be moving towards time limited licenses and/or regulated licence trading, though both will inevitably increase government involvement.

Dr Weatherhead’s presentation, The Role of Big Society in Agricultural Water Resource Management and Climate Change Adaptation, will demonstrate how agricultural water allocation has been run successfully in many countries through religious structures, village committees or farmer groups. Water Abstractor Groups (WAGS) have been a comparatively late development in the UK but could offer an alternative approach – handing over the role of local water management to end users and allowing them to manage and distribute the permitted volumes between themselves. Increased flexibility and freedom for users to move water to the best uses could provide a powerful adaptation measure in the face of shortage.

Water & Environment 2011: CIWEM’s Annual Conference will focus on the Big Society and aims to provide a comprehensive response to the Government’s Programme. The event takes place on 6th and 7th April 2011 and will include a mix of keynote speakers, offered papers, exhibitions and networking opportunities that will make this the key event for water and environment professionals.

Richard Benyon MP, Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, and Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB, are just two of the confirmed keynote speakers to give their response to the Government’s programme. For more information, go to http://www.ciwem.org/events/annual-conference.aspx.




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