Probably a coincidence but coming on the heels of the Water Company report on the potential for catchment management Helm’s views are an interesting intervention at the start of the Parliament. The Natural Capital Committee is a clear commitment in the Conservative manifesto and an increasingly rare ‘green’ survivor in this Government’s programme.

It will be interesting to see how the thinking outlined in this report develops.

Dieter Helm – chair of the Natural Capital CommitteeSince 2010 there have been a number of piecemeal reforms and developments across the water sector. These have included: the periodic review of the water and sewerage companies; the provision of further financing for the Environment Agency to address flood defences over a slightly longer period; a deal with insurance companies on flood risk; steps towards retail competition in water; and changes to the form and scope of agricultural subsidies for environmental improvements.

It is widely acknowledged that these are only evolutionary steps in developing a more efficient and environmentally sustainable water sector. Issues which remain outstanding include: abstraction management and upstream competition; a long-term solution for flood defences; and a better integration of agricultural practice with water quality and the ecology of rivers. Put simply, the natural capital embedded in catchments is as yet neither managed on a cost effective basis nor a sustainable one. The current state of affairs therefore does not meet the objective of the 2011 White Paper: The Natural Choice – to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state.’ To read more go to:

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