Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Civil & Environmental Engineering

Abstract

London and the South-East is the economic 'powerhouse' of England contributing 40% of GDP. Currently there is a shortage of housing, particularly affordable homes, and 50,000 new homes per year are planned for London to 2036. The growing population of London and its planned housing require water to be supplied and flooding to be reduced as far as possible. However, the region is vulnerable to water shortages (droughts) and floods. In the spring of 2012 London was facing potentially its worst drought, with concerns whether Affinity Water could provide sufficient water for some Olympic events. By contrast, the prolonged rainfall that then fell over the summer caused localised flooding and the Thames barrier being closed twice. This swing, over half a year, from extreme shortage of water to excess highlights the major challenge London faces to manage the water environment.

This challenge is likely to worsen with climate change alongside the expected economic growth of London and associated increase in population. It also shows how droughts and flooding are two ends of a hydrological spectrum, whose political oversight, i.e. governance, needs to be managed was a whole. It is this need for integrated, collaborative and appropriate management that lies at the heart of CAMELLIA.

Focusing on London, CAMELLIA will bring together environmental, engineering, urban planning and socio-economic experts with governmental and planning authorities, industry, developers and citizens to provide solutions that will enable required housing growth in London whilst sustainably managing water and environment in the city.

CAMELLIA will be led by Imperial College London, working in collaboration with researchers at University College London, the University of Oxford, and the British Geological Survey. The programme is supported by communities, policymakers and industry including: local and national government, environmental regulators, water companies, housing associations and developers, environmental charities and trusts. Ultimately, the programme aims to transform collaborative water management to support the provision of lower cost and better performing water infrastructure in the context of significant housing development, whilst improving people's local environments and their quality of life.

The relationships between the natural environment and urban water infrastructure are highly complex, comprised of ecological, hydrological, economic, technical, political and social elements. It is vital that policy and management are informed by the latest scientific understanding of hydrological and ecological systems. However, for this knowledge to make a change and have an impact, it needs to be positioned within wider socio-technical and economic systems. CAMELLIA will provide a systems framework to translate Natural Environmental Research Council-funded science into decision-making. Enabling a range of organisations and people to contribute to, and apply systems-thinking and co-designed tools to create a paradigm shift in integrated water management and governance underpins CAMELLIA. This will achieve the goal of real stakeholder engagement in water management decisions and provide a template, not just for London's growth, but for other cities, regions and communities both nationally and globally.

The proposed work programme consists of four work packages which address 4 key questions, namely: How to understand the system?; How to model the integrated system?; How to analyse that system?; How to apply this systems approach to create impact? To help focus these questions, four London based case studies are being used, each reflecting a key issue: Southwark (urban renewal); Thamesmead (housing development); Mogden (water infrastructure regeneration); Enfield (Flood risk and water quality). From these, an integrated systems model will be applied to the entire city in order to help guide policy, planning and water management decisions.

Planned Impact

Impact lies at the heart of CAMELLIA. This is why we are working with 20 stakeholders (CAMELLIA partners), which include Defra, the Environment Agency (EA), Thames Water, Affinity Water, Transport for London, Homebuilders Federation, GLA, London Boroughs, and community groups (Thames 21; Rivers Trusts) in order to deliver significant, quantifiable impact. These organisations have agreed to work with us, as the expected growth and associated housing development with London and the Thames, can only be delivered affordably, in a sustainable manner, and without significant environmental degradation, if a truly Catchment-Based Approach (CaBA) to water management is adopted.

To deliver new housing that contributes to documented visions of a more "Liveable" London (e.g. the Mayor of London's September 2017 London Housing Strategy), CAMELLIA will provide stakeholders usable information, models and tools, and work with them to use and continue to apply them collectively, thus greatly advancing the CaBA. The impacts we expect CAMELLIA to deliver are:

(1) The tools developed within CAMELLIA to quantify the effects of infiltration management on flood risk, infrastructure performance, and water resources will, for the first time, enable the assessment of 'upstream' intervention on 'downstream' impact. This will provide the evidence that could transform sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) uptake, for example, potentially based on the collective adoption of a SuDS offsetting scheme. This would support sustainable development within the GLA's Opportunity Areas, and could unlock areas currently considered unsuitable for development because of a lack of integrated assessment.

(2) The programme will build community capacity and expertise to engage with a range of organisational and institutional stakeholders based on open and equitable access to scientific knowledge. Engagement of London's citizens in the science of water management and design of infrastructure and policy options will improve their effectiveness, compared to conventional approaches based on public education, behaviour change and outreach.

(3) By applying systems thinking, the common objectives for a truly wide range of stakeholders will be included in a structured decision process. CAMELLIA will deliver an innovative Integrated Systems Analysis, which explicitly focuses on the interactions between the physical, social, management and decision-making system that is created from multiple stakeholder perspectives and with genuine local relevance. It will allow the analysis of differences in short- and long-term effects and avoid unintended consequences.

(4) CAMELLIA will transform access to data, knowledge, models, and tools to support urban water management and decision-making. It will deliver the Community Water Management Portal, a publicly-available web-based platform that will enable stakeholders to: (i) easily find out what data and tools are available and what they can be used for; (ii) access knowledge supporting community understanding; (iii) view and interpret multi-dimensional datasets describing London's urban water system, from anywhere; (iv) use a range of hydrological models and system dynamic models, and interpret their results.

Ten Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have been specified. These provide measures of the main outcomes from the programme. They enable CAMELLIA's impact with respect to user engagement and innovation, along with the benefit for society, business, the environment and policy to be quantified and costed against the consortium's baseline data.

Of the many examples cited by our partners, Peabody believe that "we can build a good case for investment around clear benefits that demonstrate value for money" and Thames Water state that "we are confident that we can collectively deliver better outcomes at lower cost". Given their annual investment in assets of £1bn, this represents huge potential savings and a long-lasting legacy.

Publications

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