On June 30, 2015, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) sponsored the highly successful Research Councils UK (RCUK) Water Showcase on “Water for Future Cities”.
The showcase was produced as part of the UK Water Partnership and was attended by a diverse audience of approximately 200 people from industry, government, civil society organisations and the research community.
The event examined the water challenges faced by our cities including reducing water demand, ensuring there is a plentiful supply of good quality water, maintaining effective infrastructure above and below ground, city groundwater management, reducing our exposure to extreme events, protecting our environment and adopting a whole-systems approach - which in essence means working together to solve all of these challenges.
Alex Nickson, Strategy Manager for Climate Change Adaptation and Water, Greater London Authority, said: “‘We need a partnership approach to tackle the challenges cities like London will face in future with respect to water, in the light of climate change and increasing population. The UK Water Partnership and RCUK ‘Water in Future Cities’ event on 30 June recognised this, acting as a springboard for scientists, architects , designers, consultants, businesses, NGOs and policymakers to get together and, hopefully, kick off the action.’
While the challenges may be predictable, the future visions put forward by the UK Water Partnership are not; they embrace the physical, digital and social fabric of our city to ensure both an effective water supply and a resilient and liveable city. The five future visions, pitched by lead-experts, ranged from city food production and garden cityscapes through to floating infrastructure and hi-tech sensors and robotics, to community transition cities.
Keynote speaker Sir Mark Walport, said: “The Foresight Future of Cities project is considering the broad range of issues, which have a significant influence on the long-term development of the UK’s cities. The impact of water and its sustainable management play a critical role in this future. “The UK Water Partnership has made a valuable contribution to the debate by its presentation of a set of interesting, alternative visions for the supply and use of water in our cities.”
Dr Catherine Ewart, Head of the STFC Futures Programme, said: “‘The event was very useful in stimulating thought within the Futures team about how our community’s capabilities can help address the challenges that we face. We look forward to working with the UK Water Partnership to explore opportunities for collaboration with stakeholders.’
The showcase was followed by a drinks reception sponsored by the consultancy Atkins, with two award ceremonies by two other members of the UK Water Partnership, the Water Industry Forum and the Future Water Association.
Dr Geoff Darch, Head of Climate Risks, Atkins, said: “The lively RCUK Water in Future Cities conference underlined the central role water plays in our city life now. As we become more urbanised, and experience further the impacts of climate change, it is vital that we plan properly for the future. We need to consider the risks and opportunities and implement robust, joined up action that enriches people’s lives.”
A UK Water Partnership report commissioned by the Government Office of Science’s Foresight Future of Cities project and led by NERC on behalf of the research councils, was published to coincide with the event. This explores the research breakthroughs and technological innovations we will need to achieve the visions.
Please find a video of the event here.
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Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK’s seven Research Councils. Our collective ambition is to ensure the UK remains the best place in the world to do research, innovate and grow business. The Research Councils are central to delivering research and innovation for economic growth and societal impact. Together, we invest £3 billion in research each year, covering all disciplines and sectors, to meet tomorrow’s challenges today. Our investments create new knowledge through: funding research excellence; responding to society’s challenges; developing skills, leadership and infrastructure; and leading the UK’s research direction. We drive innovation through: creating environments and brokering partnerships; co-delivering research and innovation with over 2,500 businesses, 1,000 of which are SMEs; and providing intelligence for policy making. Find out more about our work at www.rcuk.ac.uk.
The seven UK Research Councils are:
The UK Water Partnership is a private-public collaboration, launched in February 2015 and chaired by Lord Smith of Finsbury, with two primary goals:
NERC leads the Research and Innovation delivery group of the UK Water Partnership on behalf of RCUK. Find out more at www.theukwaterpartnership.org