GMCA agrees Environment Agency and United Utilities partnership to manage water differently

  • GMCA agrees new Memorandum of Understanding with the Environment Agency and United Utilities on sustainable water management
  • Partnership will work to increase resilience, including in areas at risk of flooding and impacts of climate change, supporting Greater Manchester’s 2038 carbon neutrality commitment
  • More than 162,000 properties in Greater Manchester are at risk of surface water flooding, with 63,000 at risk of river flooding
  • MoU will also support close collaboration on environmental, development, and infrastructure priorities for Greater Manchester

GREATER Manchester Leaders have today (Friday 24 September) agreed a new partnership for sustainable water management, including tackling the growing flood risk across the city-region.

Leaders approved the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Environment Agency, the public body dedicated to protecting and improving the environment, and United Utilities, the North West’s water company.

Sustainable water management

Under the MoU, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) will work with the two organisations to ensure progressive improvements in sustainable water management across the city-region, enhancement of the natural environment and ensuring all future developments and critical infrastructure are resilient to flooding and the impact of climate change.

The partnership will also support Greater Manchester’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2038, 12 years ahead of the national target, through utilising nature-based solutions, biodiversity net gain, and opportunities to drive a more circular economy for materials and waste. By informing local regeneration plans and leveraging funding into Greater Manchester, it will also aim to create good jobs for residents across the city-region through opportunities with the Environment Agency and United Utilities.The agreement builds on a productive partnership between GMCA, the Environment Agency and United Utilities. During the past four years, the three organisations have worked together in setting out the ambitions in the Five-Year Environment Plan and the supporting evidence for Places for Everyone, the joint development strategy of nine Greater Manchester authorities.

This includes Natural Course where the organisations have been working with other partners to deliver integrated water management solutions, tackling issues such as diffuse pollution from urban and rural sources and flood risk management.

Flood risk in Greater Manchester

A key aim of the partnership will be reducing flood risk, improving water quality and water efficiency, enhancing natural assets, and ultimately creating more liveable places and developments. The partnership will also inform United Utilities’ investment planning in Greater Manchester.

The partnership also aims to encourage residents and businesses in the region to reduce the amount of water they use and also reduce the amount of non-flushable items that make their way into the sewer each year which can lead to flooding.

At a Combined Authority meeting earlier this month, Leaders heard an update on flood risk management across the city-region and the importance of coordinated and strategic approach to addressing the issue. The estimated cost of damage to businesses and infrastructure during the Boxing Day floods of 2015 was around £11.5m.

According to the Environment Agency, there are 63,478 properties in Greater Manchester at risk from river flooding, and 162,979 properties at risk from surface water. This is expected to increase due to future climate change projections. At present, the annual cost of maintaining existing flood defences for the city-region is just under £3m.

The report heard at the Combined Authority meeting recommended that a range of initiatives would be required to address and mitigate against flood risk, from engineering to green infrastructure and nature-based solutions.

Paul Dennett, City Mayor of Salford and GMCA Lead for Housing, Homelessness and Infrastructure, said: “We know all too well the devastation that flooding can cause to lives and livelihoods here in Greater Manchester, and the climate emergency has significantly increased the risk posed to our communities. The impact and disruption caused by flooding affects homes, transport services and essential infrastructure – and such a widespread impact needs a wide-ranging response.

“We have an urgent responsibility not only to prepare for these events and respond to them, but to increase resilience and do all we can to mitigate against the risk of flooding. There are already a range of actions taking place, and this new agreement with the Environment Agency and United Utilities will take that collaborative working to another level. This is a challenge that we cannot ignore, and together we can make a real difference.

“We do recognise, however, that with limited resources this is not something we can achieve on our own. We need central government to step forward and work with us, giving us the funding we need to tackle this problem. If not, more places will be exposed to the very real and growing threat of flooding.”

Ben Scott, Area Flood and Coastal Risk Manager for the Environment Agency, said: “By working in partnership with a number of organisations across Greater Manchester, we have already significantly reduced the risk of flooding for local people and businesses.

“We are delighted to be strengthening our partnership arrangements even further to enable us to better identify all possible actions, large or small, that will help us further drive down flood risk.

“Increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change means that we cannot prevent all flooding. People should check their flood risk, sign up for free flood warnings and keep up to date with the latest situation on gov.uk or follow @EnvAgencyNW on Twitter for the latest flood updates.”

Jo Harrison, Director of Environment, Planning and Innovation at United Utilities said: “Strategic partnerships such as this one will play a critical role as we look to tackle climate change and the impacts it has on the region.  In partnership we can work collectively to deliver resilient communities and improve the area’s natural environment and biodiversity, which will be crucial in the years to come. 

“By working together we can also look to maximise innovative funding opportunities for projects across Greater Manchester and ensure that any developments are more sustainable for future generations.”

Article Published: 24/09/2021 10:06 AM