Climate change

We consider the impacts of climate change on our services and adapt our business accordingly.

Climate change is the long-term change in average weather conditions, including temperature, precipitation and wind. It is predicted that our climate will change dramatically and for the North West, this will result in higher daily temperatures in both winter and summer, and a shift in our rainfall from summer to winter. This will mean there is likely to be:

  • more frequent and/or higher magnitude drought events in summer;
  • more rainfall in the winter; and
  • more occurrences of heavy rainfall.

Climate change has been the subject of strategic concern to us for over two decades. As a water and wastewater utility provider, we have first-hand experience of the impacts of extreme weather events on our operations and our customers, and we recognise our part to play in mitigating climate change.

To ensure consistency and emphasize the importance of our climate change activities, we have a 'protect and enhance the environment' promise within our business plan for 2015-2020, which includes a climate change resilience commitment.

Our response to climate change can be split into two areas:

  • adaptation - making sure our services are resilient to a changing climate; and
  • mitigation - reducing the carbon emissions associated with our services, especially through our energy strategy.
  • Adaptation

    The recent flooding and drought in our region are the forerunners to longer-term climate change impacts. Our strategic risk planning to address these is mature, but we recognise the ongoing need to improve our understanding of climate risks. We have therefore adopted a 25-year planning horizon (to 2040) to ensure the resilience of our water resources (see our Water Resource Management Plan) and to enable the sustainable future management of drainage systems.

    In 2011, we published our first adaptation report (PDF 3.48 MB opens in new window) that explains to government how we are preparing for a changing climate. It sets out how we intend to manage material risks associated with climate change and outlines our partnership-based approach. Our second adaptation report (PDF 2.08 MB opens in new window), published in 2015, builds on this and reports progress on our actions.

    A more sustainable approach to the development, management and operation of our assets is needed to effectively adapt to climate change. For example, making our sewers bigger to accommodate the increased rainfall is no longer a sustainable approach. Instead, we are adapting to climate change through a more holistic, integrated and partnership-based approach.

    For more detailed information on how we have incorporated climate change into our business strategy refer to our CDP response.


    Reducing demand for water is paramount, and our efforts to encourage and support water efficiency are increasing. We are working with external partners to integrate our messaging further afield, monitoring our own water usage and reducing leakage. We are certified by the Carbon Trust Standard for Water.

    In terms of managing water supply and demand, we already have an integrated supply zone covering the majority of the North West. Generally, this system is proficient in managing demand, but where there are extremities that remain ill-equipped to deal with future challenges, we bring more supplies online to meet any potential shortfalls.


    The key risk to our wastewater service is the predicted increase in more intense rainfall across the region. The sustainable management of surface water is vital in adapting to this risk and current work to improve its management includes:

    • working with Defra, DCLG, Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) and developers to promote the implementation of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS);
    • working with LLFAs and the Environment Agency (EA) to develop Surface Water Management Plans across the region; and
    • embedding our partnership working approach with Local Authorities, EA and others.

    There is the potential to deliver enhanced benefits to all parties with sustainable interventions, implemented in collaboration with other stakeholders, which move away from traditional costly capital schemes and share the costs.

    We are developing our risk based approach using data on population growth and climate change, amongst others, to predict both the current and future risks to our sewerage network. We can then combine our risk data with that from other stakeholders to identify areas of common risk and facilitate partnerships to jointly resolve problems.

    The requirement for other stakeholders to adapt to climate change is an opportunity to establish better working relationships with key stakeholders and regulators. It enables us to address the barriers and interdependencies needed to manage adaptation activities, and deliver mutual benefits. This will lead to robust sustainable solutions for complex issues and reduce the costs of adaptation activities. 

  • Mitigation

    The key factor in climate change is an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs). There is global scientific agreement that as a result of human activity the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere is increasing and affecting the global climate. Therefore minimising the GHGs emitted as a result of our operations will mitigate climate change.

    Measuring & reporting our carbon footprint

    We are dedicated to understanding how every aspect of our operations contributes to our carbon footprint. We’re also committed to reporting our impact in the most transparent and robust way possible. We set out the boundary of our footprint and previous year’s performance within our annual report.

    Verification and performance

    We want our carbon footprint to be as robust and transparent as possible. Since 2007, our greenhouse gas inventory has undergone independent, third-party verification by Achilles Group to meet the specifications of the Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme (CEMARS). This includes compliance with the international carbon reporting standard ISO14064, Part 1. We incorporate recommendations we receive during CEMARS verification audits into our business processes.

    We continue to benchmark our performance against several global indices, including CDP, and we share our carbon footprint annually with our regulator Ofwat as part of the water industry-wide regulatory return process.

    Our greenhouse gas emissions

    Over the last 11 years the trend in our overall emissions has been downwards even though they have fluctuated over the past few years – as they can be affected by weather, operational conditions and the carbon content of the UK's electricity supply. In 2016/17, our gross carbon footprint totalled 452,301 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, 23% below our 2005/06 baseline and our net emissions were 444,644 tCO2e.

    Our carbon footprint over the last 11 years

     Our carbon footprint over the last 11 years

    Effective energy management is not only good for the environment it’s good for our business too. The less energy we have to buy makes our business more efficient and having our own energy means we have the security of energy right on our doorstep.

    Working with others

    We recognise that our mitigation efforts will only be successful if we work with others– any failure to engage our key stakeholders on the critical importance of reducing our emissions and adapting to climate change will undermine our own efforts. We are also aware that there are challenges and opportunities within our supply chain and in how we deliver our capital investment programme.

    Supply Chain

    We are reliant on a large chain of suppliers of varying sizes to support day to day operations and project delivery. We endeavour to influence our supply chain to support our carbon reduction aims in a number of ways, including through the goods and services we procure and project partners we select. Visit the Suppliers section to find out how we are working with our partners to understand and measure the emissions associated with their operations.

    Capital Delivery Programme

    A large part of our carbon emissions are associated with our capital delivery programme. As a result we are working closely with our Construction Delivery Partners and Engineering Service Provider to measure and reduce the whole life carbon impact of our capital delivery programme and ensure our programme delivers sustainable solutions preparing us for climate change and delivers them sustainably whilst mitigating any climate change.

  • Our energy strategy

    Our energy management strategy has three objectives each of which have potential benefits to our carbon footprint. These are to:

    • reduce our consumption,
    • increase our generation, and
    • make smarter use of our assets.

    Energy efficiency measures are important but there are limits to the extent they can contribute to any mitigation strategy therefore we need to deploy renewable technologies effectively to fill the gap.

    Our first 500kW turbine is now generating power at our Fleetwood treatment works. This facility is also home to one of the biggest solar panel installations in the North West.

    During 2015/16, we installed Europe's first commercial scale floating solar array at Godley Reservoir in Manchester. It covers an area equal to six football pitches, with 12,000 panels on 30,000 floats, and generates 35% of the water treatment works' total power.

    Our Manchester Bioresources Centre in Davyhulme employs a ground-breaking configuration of thermal hydrolysis to maximise energy generation from sludge. It won an Institute of Chemical Engineers award for innovation in 2013/14, and in 2016 we began to inject biogas into the national gas network.

    We have ambitious plans to generate around 35 per cent of our energy consumption by 2020. Most of the energy we generate is used to power our works with some of the excess gas or electricity put into the national grid. It helps to reduce our energy bill and allows us to access Government incentives.

    In 2016/17, we generated the equivalent of 149 GWh from energy recovery and from wind and solar photovoltaics, which represents 18 per cent of our 812 GWh energy consumption. Equivalent to 24GWh was exported as biogas or electricity in 2016/17 and this reduced our net carbon footprint by 7,657 tCO2e.

    In the coming year we will be moving to a renewable power contract with our electricity supplier so that the electricity we purchase will come from renewable sources and further reduce our footprint.

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