The Rivers Trust will co-lead an innovative new project working to remove barriers and develop new enabling mechanisms for the adoption of nature-based solutions at a catchment scale. The project has been officially announced, thanks to a successful bid to the Ofwat Innovation Fund, led by The Rivers Trust, United Utilities, Jacobs, and Mott Macdonald. 16 other partners, listed below, will contribute to the project across the country.

The Rivers Trust has long championed the potential for nature-based solutions (NBS) to address the challenges facing our environment and wider society. Tree and hedge planting, buffer strips alongside rivers, restored soils, sustainable drainage systems and restoring wetlands can all play a vital role in storing and purifying precious water resources, reducing flood risk and the pressure on sewers, and providing space for nature.

In a changing climate, drought and flood events are becoming an increasing occurrence, and are exacerbated by socio-political pressures, population growth, and ageing infrastructure assets. When implemented well, NBS can be used alongside more carbon-intensive and expensive grey infrastructure not just to reduce the risk and impact of floods and drought, but to generate additional benefits including improved water quality, biodiversity, and community health and wellbeing.

Chief Executive, Mark Lloyd said: “Despite enthusiasm for nature-based solutions in policy documents, their investment and delivery remain very limited in scale, and too often they are blocked by risk-averse mindsets. This project seeks to change that, making NBS a key aspect of the integrated approach to water and environmental management that we desperately need.”

Project work will be focused on five areas:

  1. Working with regulators and policymakers to enable policy and regulation for NBS – engaging with the likes of the Environment Agency and Ofwat to test fit-for-purpose regulatory requirements for NBS that will also drive greater value;
  2. Investment mechanisms for NBS – assessing and testing models and mechanisms that incentivise joined-up funding, planning and delivery at scale, and creating a multi-million-pound investment-ready pipeline to deliver multiple benefits for society and the environment, as well as tangible cost savings for customers and beneficiaries;
  3. Standardisation and integration – standardised and consolidated tools and processes for designing, building, delivering, managing, monitoring, validating and verifying NBS, along with standardised data and evidence for reporting on their impacts;
  4. Making it relevant and tangible – using real-life ongoing or planned activities across different landscapes to test hypotheses, develop solutions, consolidate learnings, create joined-up action plans, accelerate, and deliver greater value. This work will be focused on the following areas:
    • South East and South West England
    • East of England
    • North East and North West England
    • The Wye in Wales
    • Northern Ireland
  5. Coordination, steer and collaboration at national scale – pulling all workstreams into one coherent flow through continuous review and dissemination of learnings.

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