Mark Tinsley: Water Management Plan is vital to grow Lincolnshire economy by £8bn

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Next month the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will launch its Water Management Plan for a local and regional audience.

The LEP’s Water Management Plan will be launched at the Best Western Kenwick Park Hotel, near Louth at 9.45am on Friday 24th February 2017.

The plan is vital as it sets out how we ensure a sustainable water supply in the future while protecting our homes, farms and businesses from flooding.

Greater Lincolnshire is a growing area, which is planning to create 100,000 new homes and 29,000 new jobs to grow its economy by £8 billion by 2030.

It also has a long coastline and a great deal of low-lying land – 45% of Greater Lincolnshire is in the flood plain – so flood management is critical to facilitating growth.

In a low-lying area more storms and sea level rises will increase our potential risk of flooding from the sea.

In addition to flood risk, our area also currently has insufficient water supply capacity to meet the demands of new housing, industry and agri-food sector growth.

As one of the driest areas in the country with only about 600mm of rainfall on average it is easy for us to experience long dry periods; and all the climate change models suggest that we will see longer periods of drought and more frequent flooding in future.

Our ability to capture and manage water when it is available will become increasingly important.

The LEP has developed its Water Management Plan to address these challenges in the context of projected economic and infrastructure growth.

Building 100,000 new homes requires a lot of extra water; even if we can reduce per capita consumption from 150 litres per person per day to 115 litres or less, this means we will need nearly an additional 25 million litres of fresh water per day.

That’s 25,000 tonnes of water per day, or enough to fill 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The extra 200,000 people will also need more schools, hospitals and jobs, all of which will need more water.

Lincolnshire is famous for its fresh produce and is responsible for about 25% of the UK’s vegetable supply.

This requires well drained land, but also water to help the plants produce healthy crops in drier periods.

We also know we need to keep sufficient water flowing in our water courses to keep them and the biodiversity they support healthy.

Lincolnshire also has a thriving tourism sector, much of which is located on the coast. Protecting tourism assets from flooding and ensuring we have water for people to enjoy is central to the success of this important sector.

That’s why the Greater Lincolnshire Water Management Board is leading this agenda to address water management issues from the Humber to the Wash.

We worked with more than 50 different stakeholders to ensure that the plan meets their needs.

The plan includes actions in three related areas:

  • Flood schemes
  • Water supply schemes
  • Awareness raising, skills and innovation in how to manage water

Greater Lincolnshire has a well deserved reputation for collaborative working on flood prevention, and we can be proud of what we have achieved so far. But we need to do more to meet the challenges of future climate change and a rise in sea level.

Water management is also about ensuring that our households, industry and agri-food sector have the water resources they need. Our plan treats flooding and water supply as two sides of the same challenge.

It has taken a lot of work to get to this point, but we are just at the beginning. The real test is whether we can deliver the innovative and large-scale water management projects we need to see.