A Catchment-Based Approach to Flood Risk Management – River Trust Conference June 2014

The Eden Rivers Trust, working in partnership with the ALFA Project, is hosting a two-day event for individuals and organisations interested in practical catchment management and flood risk

May 30th 2014

This two-day event is being held at the Conference Centre at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria on the 11th and 12th of June. The focus of the event is catchment-based approaches to flood risk management, with a programme of presentations and discussions planned for the first day, and workshops and site visits planned for the second.

The first day’s programme features a range of presentations from the ALFA Project (Adaptive Land use for Flood Alleviation), rivers and wetlands trusts, catchment management groups, the Environment Agency and other organisations, and will draw together the latest experiences from work across the UK and in Europe. The topics will include:

  • ‘A European Perspective of Adaptation and Water-Friendly Land Management throughout the Catchment’ – Working with and restoring natural river processes and catchments to reduce flood risk
  • ‘Communities Taking Action’ – Examples of how different communities, both rural and urban, are actively working together to increase their resilience to flooding
  • ‘The Science and Policy of Flood Risk Management’ – Insights into the current and future direction of national policy approaches to flood risk both in the UK and abroad
  • ‘Integrated Approaches to Catchment-Based Solutions for Flood Risk Management’ – The sharing of experiences from projects that are already taking a catchment-based approach to managing flood risk

The second day is devoted to the more practical aspects of delivering river restoration and best practice soil management. A morning of workshops will include an interactive workshop that will enable participants to find out more about best practice soil management in a catchment context. Most of the workshop will be out in the fields learning how to spot potential soil problems and assess soil health. Members of the Eden Rivers Trust will be on hand to talk about their work with farmers in improving soil management throughout the Eden catchment, such as the use of GPS technology and soil aeration. An afternoon of site visits will include a visit to the River Leith near Penrith to see an example of river restoration work in progress. Part of the River Eden Restoration Project, the project involves excavating the river’s original channel in order to reverse historic straightening and widening and reinstate the river’s more natural state, with a more natural gradient and a greater diversity of flows and habitat.

For further information on the event, including details of how to book, see the Rivers Trust website at “The Rivers Trust – Spring Conference 2014”.


Water Utilities – Better access to data may improve efficiency, says EEA

New report includes data on water loss, waste water treatment and energy consumption

May 29th 2014

The European Environment Agency has published a new report on water utilities which has gathered data from the four leading water associations in Europe, with the aim of improving efficiency in water usage. The data used in the report represents the water-using habits of about 50 million people across Europe, with data analysis showing that an average user consumes roughly 130 litres of water a day. The report is a consequence of the EU’s commitment to improving the accountability of water service providers by enabling better access to comparable data on key environmental performance indicators. The report argues that “better access to data on water supply and treatment may help Europe to use this precious resource more efficiently.”

The key findings of the report include data on water loss, waste water treatment, and energy consumption. On the loss of water due to leaks and other inefficiencies in distribution, the report finds that this varies greatly across Europe. The data also shows that waste water treatment is more effective in larger treatment plants, which release relatively lower levels of nutrient emissions compared to the smaller plants and are therefore less likely to cause nutrient pollution. On energy consumption, the report finds that urban water management (including water abstraction, distribution and treatment) uses roughly 5.5% of an average household’s overall electricity consumption, which equates to each person continuously running a 10W light bulb.

Another key finding, however, is that the data produced by water utilities is not always comparable and often lacks adequate detail, which means that European-level performance indicators are more difficult to develop. Better information on how much energy is used in water treatment and how much water is lost through distribution inefficiencies would help to improve resource efficiency, the report argues.

For a copy of the report, see the EEA website at “Performance of Water Utilities beyond Compliance”.

Contaminated Land – Site Investigation 2014

Best practice and practical solutions when remediating or developing brownfield or contaminated land

May 27th 2014

Brownfield Briefing is holding a conference on contaminated land next month. The conference will be held at the ICO Conference Centre in London on the 12th June. The aim of the conference is to share best practice and to provide practical solutions when assessing risk under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and in the planning process. [1] Brownfield Briefing says “Site Investigation 2014 will explore risk assessment strategies and data management for achieving robust risk assessments and cost-effective site investigations when remediating or developing brownfield or contaminated land.”

The topics for the day will include:

  • Contaminated Land Risk Assessment in the Planning Process
  • Site Investigation under Part 2A
  • A Solutions-Based Approach to Site Investigation
  • Site-Specific Risk Assessment for More Accurate Site Investigation
  • Optimum Sampling and Data Collection Strategies

The conference will include presentations on the practicalities of considering contaminated land investigation and risk assessment in a planning application from a local authority perspective, together with an outline of the development and practical use of the new Category 4 Screening Levels. Category 4 is part of the new system for classifying land under Part 2A and describes land that is clearly not contaminated. The legal implications of this under Part 2A and the planning process will be explored in the morning whilst an evening session will feature short introductions to the topic from diverging perspectives, followed by a debate. Further presentations during the day will include a focus on the client’s perspective: how to manage a portfolio of statutory liabilities when defining and reporting works on contaminated land. The emphasis of the day will be on practical solutions and further presentations will look at best practice in designing and optimising sampling and data collection programmes for improved site characterisation.

For further details of the conference, see the Brownfield Briefing website.


[1] Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 came into force in April 2000 and introduced a new regime for the regulation of contaminated land in England. For more information on Part 2A, see the statutory guidance published by Defra (Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) in April 2012, available for download as a PDF document from the GOV.UK website. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has also published a Local Authority Guide to the Application of Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. See the CIEH website for more information.

Waste Management News – Waste Offenders in Court

Fines, confiscation orders and jail sentences for waste offenders

May 26th 2014

The waste industry is subject to a body of regulation and statutory guidance, including the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010. Companies that fail to comply with this body of regulation can end up in court, as demonstrated recently. Last month saw a series of court cases concerned with waste offences, highlighting the fact that the Environment Agency takes waste crime very seriously.

In one case [1], two Doncaster men were given prison sentences as a result of illegal waste activities at two sites in Yorkshire. The two men were sentenced at Hull Crown Court on the 14th of May. In addition to the jail sentences, the two men were also subject to confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the confiscation orders amounting to £200,000 and £20,000.

The offences in this case occurred between 2008 and 2010 at Middleton Quarry and at a site in Doncaster. At Middleton Quarry, the Environment Agency carried out a site visit and then a surveillance operation when it was discovered that tipping was being carried out on an industrial scale. The quarry did not have an environmental permit to authorise such tipping and was unlikely to receive one due to the site’s proximity to three boreholes used for the abstraction of drinking water. The waste included plastics and asbestos sheeting whilst the results of sample testing revealed the presence of chrysotile asbestos and asbestos fibres, presenting a significant pollution risk to the nearby water sources. The Agency estimates that 127,000 tonnes of waste were deposited in total at the quarry, which if disposed of lawfully would have cost more than £440,000.

At the second site in this particular case, waste was also being tipped onto land that did not have an environmental permit. The site was close to water sources and a permit was unlikely due to the potential risks to groundwater. Site visits carried out by the Agency showed that the waste included brick, rubble, soil, plastics, metal, wood and tyres. Following a raid by the Agency in 2010, a series of trial pits were dug at the site and the results of the tests confirmed the presence of asbestos. The Agency also seized waste transfer notes and invoices which suggested that the defendants made considerable financial gains from operating the site without the benefit of an environmental permit.

In a second and totally separate case [2], a man was fined £10,000 for the mismanagement of a site in Nottinghamshire. The case was heard at Mansfield Magistrates Court on the 15th of May. In this case, the site had an environmental permit but a site inspection revealed that the waste being deposited was in excess of the limit allowed by the permit. In addition, some of the waste was being stored in uncovered areas, contrary to the permit conditions. The site owner was given a deadline to reduce the waste but failed to bring it down to the required levels. The Environment Agency was also concerned about the danger of run-off due to the lack of engineered drainage on the site. It was then discovered that the site owner was storing waste from the site at his home address, for which there was no environmental permit.

In a further case [3], a recycling company in Northamptonshire lost an appeal to prevent its environmental permit being revoked after ignoring a series of enforcement measures. ‘Think Environmental’ had received a number of warnings from the Environment Agency that the waste being stored at its waste management centre was in excess of the limits allowed by its permit. The company failed to respond despite further warnings and an enforcement notice issued by the local planning authority. Consequently, the Environment Agency decided to revoke its environmental permit in 2013. At the appeal hearing held this month (on May 16th), the Planning Inspector involved in the case upheld the Agency’s decision, saying that the company had a “pattern of offending with serious impact on health and the environment.” There had been two fires at the site in 2011, as reported in The Northamptonshire Telegraph [4]. The fires caused significant air pollution and resulted in the closure of the A6. In further incidents [5], the firm was fined £3,000 in 2012 for failing to remove illegally buried waste and was also fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to failing to stop smells from the site.


[1] “Two Doncaster men jailed and £200,000 seized in illegal waste case – Press releases – GOV.UK”.

[2] “Nottinghamshire man fined £10,000 for waste offences – Press releases – GOV.UK”.

[3] “Environment management news: Waste company loses permit appeal | the environmentalist”.

[4] “Fire-hit recycling firm has environmental permit revoked – Northamptonshire Telegraph”.

[5] “Environment management news: £30k fine for foul smells | the environmentalist”.


Photograph: Land next to a bridleway near Lakenheath, Suffolk, used illegally as a dump. © Copyright Bob Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

CIWEM Conference – Surface Water Management

CIWEM’s event on June 18 will focus on Local Flood Risk Management and Urban Diffuse Pollution

May 25th 2014

CIWEM (the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) is hosting a conference on Surface Water Management next month. This one-day event will focus on Local Flood Risk Management and Urban Diffuse Pollution and will be held at the University of London’s SOAS building in Russell Square on the 18th June. Three sessions of presentations are planned, focusing in turn on new research, case studies, and bridging the gap between surface water flooding and pollution. The presentations will include speakers from the Environment Agency, Defra, CIRIA, SEPA, Welsh Water, and other professional bodies.

CIWEM argues that there is a need for a much greater institutional recognition and awareness of surface water flooding:

“Surface water run-off from impermeable surfaces in urban or built environments can be highly polluting and at the same time can increase the risk of local flooding. The run-off may carry a mixture of polluting substances with the majority of these discharges receiving no treatment before entering rivers or streams leading to poor water quality and ecological damage. The aim of this conference is to consider surface water management and urban diffuse pollution in equal measure. The event will consider surface water run-off as a whole taking into account the challenges associated with urban diffuse pollution as well as local flood risk issues including those related to groundwater. The event will also address managing and building resilience to extreme flooding in urban areas.”

The conference is planned as a forum for key stakeholders from central and local government, the regulators, academia, NGOs, consultancies, research bodies and manufacturers to share ideas and best practice. A set of case studies from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the USA will provide an integrated view of water in the urban environment and the role of surface water management.

For further details of the conference, see the CIWEM website at “Surface Water Management 2014”.


Surface water flooding should not be confused with groundwater flooding. Surface water flooding is caused by run-off from impermeable surfaces such as roads and pavements and the built environment, whilst groundwater flooding occurs when the level of groundwater rises above the surface. The Environment Agency provides the facility for finding out whether an area is at risk from surface water flooding but not from groundwater flooding, which involves local geological factors and is generally a more complex issue.

Renewable Energy – Government Consults

Government proposals “maintain the growing momentum behind renewable electricity investment in the UK”

May 23rd 2014

The government announced a number of consultations last week with regard to its policies on renewable energy. The proposals are concerned with changing the way it gives financial support to solar PV, adopting a set of criteria for the allocation of spending under its ‘Contracts for Difference’ budget, and increasing its support for community energy projects.

Solar PV

The government is proposing two significant changes to its financial support for solar PV. The first is a consequence of its Solar Strategy, which it published last month. One aspect of this strategy is the aim of deploying more solar panels on the top of industrial and public sector buildings. Under the proposed changes, tariffs for rooftop-mounted solar panels would reduce at a slower rate than for ground-mounted solar panels, the intention being to give rooftop-mounted schemes access to more of the financial support available through its ‘Feed in Tariffs’ scheme.

The second change is concerned with large-scale solar deployment. The government states that the growth in this area has been much faster than expected, leading to a situation where, by 2017, there could be more solar deployed than is affordable under its electricity market reform delivery plan. Consequently, it is proposing to close the Renewables Obligation to new solar PV with a capacity above 5MW from 1st April 2015. This would have an impact on proposals for large-scale solar PV schemes across England, Wales and Scotland. A “grace period” would protect developers who have already made significant financial commitments.

Criteria for allocating spending under the Electricity Market Reform programme

The government has adopted a number of criteria to decide whether a renewable technology is “established” or “less established” in order to allocate spending. The criteria include the maturity of the technology; the levels of UK and global deployment, current and projected; the potential for further cost reductions; and the contribution of the technology to future de-carbonisation.

Under these criteria, the “established technologies” include onshore wind greater than 5MW; solar PV greater than 5MW; energy from waste with combined heat and power (CHP); hydro between 5MW and 50MW; landfill and sewage gas. The “less established technologies” include offshore wind; wave and tidal stream; advanced conversion technologies; anaerobic digestion; dedicated biomass with CHP; and geothermal.

The government states that the established technologies “have benefited from significant cost reductions following early research and development and as a result are, in some cases, taking forward large scale deployment.” Under the new proposals, these technologies will compete with each other for support from the first allocation of Contracts for Difference. In contrast, the less established technologies “have a range of characteristics including significant potential for cost reduction and delivery of low-cost renewable generation in the future. Support will be provided to create investment that enables cheaper competitive development in the longer term.”

Community Energy Projects

The government is considering the possibility of increasing the maximum capacity for community energy projects, such as solar PV, anaerobic digestion, and hydro onshore wind, from 5MW to 10MW under the Feed in Tariffs scheme. For community projects up to 5MW, it is also considering whether more can be done to allow grants to be combined with payments under the Tariffs scheme.

For further information on the consultations, see the GOV.UK website at “Ensuring value for money and maintaining investment in renewable energy – News stories – GOV.UK”.


Creative Commons Licence
Wind Farm, Mid Wales © Copyright Anthony Bloor and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The New Water Act – A Summary

Resilience, a national water supply network, affordable flood insurance and competition

May 20th 2014

The Water Bill became the Water Act last week, having received Royal Assent (see a previous news item). The provisions of the Act cover four main areas: making water supplies more resilient to natural hazards such as drought and floods, creating a national water supply network, ensuring access to affordable flood insurance, and increasing competition in the water industry.


The Act will provide Ofwat with a new duty to take greater account of long-term resilience in the management of water resources and sewerage, and will implement changes that will improve Ofwat’s regulation of the industry. A number of measures are intended to improve the ways in which water resources and drought planning are managed, with ministers able to set the level to which a water company needs to plan to handle a drought. The Act also provides measures to restore the sustainable abstraction of water, whilst the use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) will be encouraged by clarifying that the building and maintenance of a SuDS system can be a function of sewerage undertakers.

A National Water Supply Network

The Act will make it easier for water companies to buy and sell water from each other, whilst owners of small-scale water storage facilities will be able to sell excess water into the public supply. A cross-border arrangement will be established with Scotland. All of these measures have an impact on resilience, the intention being to manage more efficiently a situation where one area of the UK is affected by drought while another area has a water surplus.

Affordable Flood Insurance

The Act will enable households in the highest flood risk areas to access affordable flood insurance from 2015. Flood insurance premiums will be limited and linked to council tax bands. A new industry-backed levy will enable insurance companies to offer cover to those most at risk of flooding. The government estimates that the number of households that will be helped by these measures runs into hundreds of thousands.


The Act will enable all businesses, charities and public sector customers in England to switch their water and sewerage supplier. Businesses will be able to provide new sources of water or sewage treatment services, whilst developers and new sewage companies will be able to connect new building developments to the water mains and sewerage system.

Some Responses

The Water Act’s resilience objectives have been welcomed by CIWEM (the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management). Its Chief Executive Dr Simon Festing said that CIWEM had been concerned that Ofwat’s statutory duty to promote water conservation, efficiency and sustainable development was not being undertaken as a priority. “We are delighted,” he said, “that the Act requires water supply and sewerage undertakers to implement a range of measures to manage water resources in sustainable ways, increase efficiency in the use of water, and reduce demand for water, so as to reduce pressure on water resources.”

The measures to enable affordable flood insurance for those households most at risk have been welcomed by the National Flood Forum. Its Chief Executive Paul Cobbing said: “This is a significant milestone in helping people to access affordable flood insurance. But there is now a huge amount of work and some major challenges to turn this into reality next year.”

For further information on the Act, see the GOV.UK website at “Water Act gains Royal Assent – News stories – GOV.UK”.