United Utilities announces £300,000 fund for catchment projects

• Community and environment groups can bid for £300,000 of funding
• Catchment Systems Thinking approach will encourage partnership working
• New online portal for partner discussion and access to marketplace

United Utilities today unveiled its plans for improving the North West’s watercourses through partnership working and holistic thinking.

CEO Steve Mogford opened the virtual event launching the company’s Catchment Systems Thinking (CaST) approach, attended by NGOs, academics, businesses, regulators, environment groups and local authorities.

He described the challenges facing the environment and the opportunities for water companies and other agencies to deliver more for less by working in cooperation.

And to give the idea a boost, United Utilities has pledged a £300,000 CaST Fund, for which charities and community groups will be able to bid. It will help to unlock additional external funding to support environmental improvements in the North West of England.

Steve Mogford, CEO of United Utilities, said: “For more than 15 years United Utilities has been pioneering in our partnership approach to landscape and reservoir catchment improvements. By applying what we have learned about systems to the broader water environment we firmly believe we can deliver multiple benefits for society.

“The Government has set out its 25-year Environment Plan, to improve the quality of our environment, and now we have the drive to build back better after the coronavirus pandemic. Ofwat has indicated the importance of collaborative working in its Time To Act Together strategy. We are all working towards the same goals and that’s why we want to share our vision of a better way of working for the future.”

United Utilities’ innovative CaST approach, which looks at a river catchment as an entire system rather than a series of isolated issues, has already brought multiple benefits such as pollutant reduction and flood risk management along watercourses in Cumbria and Lancashire.  

The River Petteril in Cumbria’s Eden Valley formed a pilot project which brought together a wide range of stakeholders including farmers, regulators and big businesses. United Utilities delivered enhanced monitoring for the whole catchment to identify the sources of phosphate pollution and collaborated with a steering group to identify the most cost effective interventions. The result was a greater improvement in water quality beyond United Utilities’ own assets at a lower cost to customers. Furthermore, the collaboration allowed additional natural capital benefits to be incorporated at a catchment-wide scale, such as enhanced biodiversity, soil conservation and tree planting.

United Utilities also announced at today’s event that it is creating an online portal to facilitate ongoing discussion and partnership working. The CaST Forum, which goes live in early 2021, will be co-created with stakeholders to provide a central hub for sharing ideas and a virtual marketplace for partners to access environmental funding.

Mr Mogford added: “The CaST approach has the potential to fundamentally change the way farmers, water companies and other agencies are incentivised to deliver environmental improvements and other public goods. We hope the idea gathers momentum, not only in the North West but across the UK and beyond.”