Water sits at the heart of a sustainable revolution
17 August 2021 0:01
NI Water is calling on Government policy makers and regulators to tap into the potential of its water and wastewater infrastructure to tackle the climate emergency and nature crisis.
Launching its Annual Integrated Report for 2020/21, Sara Venning, Chief Executive, NI Water, outlined the role that NI Water can play to tackle these challenges:
“The impact of climate change can be seen in weather related events such as temperature extremes, floods and droughts. Such events can have a range of economic and social costs, which can too often fall on the most vulnerable in society.”
“We are determined to tap into the largely unseen potential for NI Water to address climate change and restore biodiversity. We believe that our infrastructure, which includes significant land holdings and over 3,000 grid connected sites across Northern Ireland, can play a strategically important role in helping society to meet these challenges. Our big, bold ideas were launched in 2020/21 and include nature based solutions such as planting one million trees and restoring our peat bogs; building more renewables on our land; kick-starting our hydrogen economy; and providing sources of warmth for district heating schemes.”
Crystallising these opportunities requires that Government commit to properly funding our critical infrastructure.
“Over £2 billion is required in our next business plan period PC21 (2021-27), including £0.5 billion for the Living With Water Programme to address strategic drainage in Belfast. This investment is required to start to address the problems of economic development constraints facing our towns and cities. These constraints are impacting adversely on social housing and wider building construction. This is not a ‘wish list’ or a ‘nice to have’; this is the plan that will help us ensure NI Water can deliver in a strong, modern regional economy.”
“Changes are also required to Government policy, funding and regulation to rethink infrastructure as a total interconnected system rather than isolated silos. These changes can help our economy to be productive and competitive in a decarbonised world.”
“We look forward to providing further details on the ‘Power of Water’ to address climate change and restore biodiversity in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) later this year.”
Ms. Venning concluded,
“NI Water stands ready to deliver. Our PC21 business plan will start to address the underinvestment in our infrastructure and the damage it has caused to our economy and the natural environment. We have consistently demonstrated the importance of this investment to enable a healthy and thriving population, a growing economy and a flourishing natural environment. We need a multi-year funding settlement from Government to efficiently deliver our multi-year plan. So much, which is so very important, to so many, now depends on it.”
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Notes to editor
- NI Water’s Annual Integrated Report for 2020/21 is available at www.niwater.com/annual-report/ and its PC21 business plan (2021-27) fast read is available at www.niwater.com/price-control/ NI Water’s big, bold ideas to help society address climate change can be found at www.niwater.com/climatechange/
- To provide a sense of scale, every day NI Water provides around 600 million litres of great tasting, safe drinking water and recycles around 370 million litres of wastewater back to the natural environment. It costs around £680m each year to deliver water services in Northern Ireland. Thousands of assets at a value of around £3bn, are operated and maintained to provide these services. This includes over 40,000km of water mains and sewers - one and a half times longer than Northern Ireland’s entire road network and long enough to circle planet earth.
- The Utility Regulator’s Final Determination on NI Water’s PC21 Business Plan (2021-27) was published in May 2021. NI Water had until 13 July 2021 to decide on acceptability. The Board of NI Water was encouraged to see that the first year of PC21 (2021/22) has been fully funded by the Department for Infrastructure and the Northern Ireland Executive. On the basis that the PC21 Final Determination continues to be fully funded, the Board of NI Water notified the Utility Regulator on 6 July that it was minded to accept the PC21 Final Determination. The Board remains in discussion with the Department for Infrastructure and other Government Departments to ensure that there is support and continuing commitment to fund the determination.
- We support the need for proper funding of water and wastewater through multi-year budgets, as recently highlighted by the NI Audit Office. This is needed to bring Government budgeting into line with international good practice contained within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Principles of Budgetary Governance. We are encouraged to see that the Executive Office’s COVID-19 recovery plan lists investment in water and wastewater as a priority activity to enable economic growth and societal well-being.