Households would be willing to pay up to £40 a year more on their water bill to use nature instead of man-made materials to improve river water quality and reduce the risk of flooding.

A study by the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) explored people’s appetite for water companies to pursue nature-based approaches to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing the sector.

These include flooding, which has already swept through large swathes of the country this winter, and on-going concerns about river pollution stemming from storm overflows.

Cost was the single most important consideration for people when asked to think about what water companies in England and Wales should be prioritising when it comes to infrastructure projects. But despite cost-of-living pressures, consumers were still willing to make some trade-offs to help pay for environmentally-friendly approaches as they recognised they could provide additional benefits.

When presented with different scenarios, the study found households were willing to pay as much as £40 a year more to fund nature-based approaches, instead of man-made solutions like concrete water storage tanks.

Approaches like sustainable drainage systems – sometimes referred to as ‘sponge cities’ – were more appealing to consumers due to being less reliant on man-made materials, having a smaller carbon footprint and being more pleasing on the eye.

Consumers are concerned about climate change and the impact of pollution upon rivers and seas. Addressing these problems in a way which is also kind to the environment strongly appealed to people.

But there was significant scepticism whether water companies could be trusted to deliver and maintain the schemes effectively enough to bring the promised benefits to rivers, wildlife and the wider environment.

Some of the key findings include:

  • The impact on their water bill is the most important factor for consumers when considering water solutions. When this is removed from the equation, the most important aspects become how long the solution will last, how long it takes to implement and its environmental impact.
  • There is clear preference for solutions that have no or low financial impact on household water bills.
  • There is also a preference for solutions that last a long time (20+ years) and take no more than 2 years to implement. Additionally, there is a preference for solutions that provide significant environmental benefits, cause minimal local disruption and have a positive effect on CO2 levels.
  • When modelling solution options for both drainage/overflows and waste water treatment, the nature-based solution is the most supported (36% and 37% respectively). Next is the mixed solution (23% and 22% respectively), with a man-made solution only gaining minority support (5% for both).
  • In the solution options modelled, nature-based solutions had a higher impact on the annual household water bill (£40) than the man-made and mixed solution options (£20 each). When testing support for nature-based solutions at different price points, consumers showed greater support for the nature-based solution over the mixed and man-made ones up to the price point of £60 – even when the man-made and mixed options retained the £20 price point.
  • During the focus groups, people expressed a preference for natural solutions rather than man-made ones – especially in the context of climate change.
  • The groups also revealed that nature-based solutions are appealing to consumers due to the very fact that they are not as reliant on man-made materials.
  • Within the focus groups, concerns around trust in water companies and regulators was raised without prompting by participants. This had a bearing on their confidence in companies to deliver the solutions being discussed, and is something that companies need to take into account.

Read more and download the report here

No Comment

Comments are closed.