NERC joins partnership to champion global water resilience

26 February 2015

NERC are pleased to announce their support for the newly launched UK Water Partnership, which will promote the UK's expertise in the sector around the globe.

Irrigating crops

The partnership marks a dynamic new chapter for the UK water industry as public and private sector organisations join forces for the first time.

Water is crucial to our lives, but growing populations and continuing improvements to infrastructure are putting a strain on this resource.

Understanding how we can build reliable and sustainable water supplies while maintaining our standards of living is a key question for the future.

Working with partners to find solutions to these questions is one way that NERC is encouraging responsible management of our environment.

Among the organisations who have expressed support for the initiative are Research Councils UK led by NERC, Severn Trent, Arup, British Water, the Met Office, Pinsent Masons, the Society of British Water & Wastewater Industries (SBWWI), WRc, the UK Water Research & Innovation Partnership (UKWRIP), Innovate UK, Defra (Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and UK Trade & Industry (UKTI).

The chair of the new body is Lord Smith of Finsbury, who expects the body to play an important role in promoting both resilience and growth. Launching the new body, he said:

There's nothing more important than water. With expanding urban concentrations around the world and the growing impacts of climate change, we need to get better at managing water, conserving it, cleaning it, delivering it, and using it. That's where innovation is going to be so important. The UK Water Partnership will bring together people across the UK water community to stimulate ideas and develop the products and services that will take on these challenges for the future.

The minister responsible for water at Defra, Dan Rogerson, also welcomed the creation of the new body. He said:

This new partnership offers a huge opportunity for all sectors of the UK water industry. By developing new technologies and driving knowledge and skills, we will be better placed than ever to respond to global challenges. I am certain that by working together, the partnership can break down barriers across the industry and set the standards around the world.

UK Water Partnership Director Tom Flood outlined the key themes behind the group's work:

I think we have a great opportunity here to align innovation with growth opportunities both in the UK and internationally. As such, the UK Water Partnership can play an important role in building more sustainable and resilient global networks, while contributing to the economic growth of the UK.

The government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, also lent his support to the new body:

Water is vital to our wellbeing, health and economy. I am pleased that both industry and the public sector have agreed to support this very worthwhile initiative. The action that the partnership is undertaking will ensure the future challenges facing us in water security and the global water market are well coordinated. Numerous examples have shown that industry sectors with a strong private-public leadership are the areas that move forward most quickly and that is why I fully support this initiative.

Further information

NERC media office
01793 411939
07785 459139


1. The UK Water Partnership aims to deliver a sustainably funded, private-public model that promotes the UK in three key areas - innovation, development and growth. It brings together public and private sector organisations to promote innovation and growth in the UK water sector.

2. The group has already identified several short-term areas for action, including:

  • developing a catalogue of UK capabilities in water services and products
  • driving research and innovation in key areas, including 'water and agriculture' and 'water and cities'
  • and hosting a major international showcase covering the UK's research and market capabilities.

3. The new body will be structured as a not-for-profit group to encourage maximum participation from interested bodies across the UK water community, including government, academia, third sector and industry groups.

4. Preliminary support for the UK Water Partnership has come from organisations such as Arup, British Water, Defra, Innovate UK, the Met Office, RCUK/NERC, Pinsent Masons, SBWWI, STW, UKTI, UKWRIP, and WRc. However, the group aims to add many new members from across water technology, services and research in the near future.

5. Lord Smith of Finsbury will be the independent chair of the new body. Chris Smith is a working peer and former member of parliament and cabinet minister, as well as former chairman of the Environment Agency. He boasts a long track record in driving innovation and growth on behalf of UK plc.

6. The UK is already recognised as a global leader in the water sector, boasting a number of world-class projects, such as the Birmingham urban demonstrator. As part of the focus on water and cities, the UK Water Partnership is supporting the creation of an urban demonstrator in Birmingham. Partners including Severn Trent Water, Environment Agency, WRc and Birmingham City Council will be promoting innovation in water efficiency, water reuse and sustainable surface water management by retrofitting an existing urban landscape alongside the creation of testing and demonstration facilities.