Stakeholder engagement for water industry abstraction investigations

17th December 2015


Rob Hinks from Cascade consulting explores how to undertake robust stakeholder engagement in exploring the impact of water industry abstraction licences.

NEP investigation

Thames Water Utilities commissioned Cascade to undertake the lower Thames operating agreement (LTOA) abstraction investigation after the Environment Agency raised concerns that the existing operating agreement was causing the lower River Thames to be overabstracted and environmentally unsustainable during low flows. It was the largest NEP investigation undertaken for the fifth asset management plan period (AMP5) and was included by the agency in its final national environment programme for the 2009 periodic review (PR09).

Similar to an environmental impact assessment (EIA), the LTOA abstraction investigation included scoping and assessment phases, supported by an extensive stakeholder engagement programme.

Two-tiered stakeholder engagement

The LTOA abstraction investigation incorporated stakeholder engagement from the outset, initially setting up a technical steering group (TSG) consisting of the Environment Agency, Thames Water and Cascade's panel of technical experts to provide strategic direction to the five-year investigation particularly during scoping and data review. The TSG met fortnightly during the early stages of the project to review progress, discuss issues and maintain the strategic direction of the investigation which covered 11 separate environmental assessment topics.

Towards the end of the data review phase, the TSG set out proposed recommendations for the full assessment of the impact of the abstraction operating licence upon the lower River Thames and upper Thames tideway, which included the inception of the LTOA stakeholder forum.

A review was undertaken of all stakeholders who might have had an interest in the investigation's future analysis, findings and recommendations, with invitations sent to all potentially interested parties. The stakeholder forum was then formed, consisting of 30 interested parties, ranging from other water companies to local angling groups.

The key focus of the forum was to review and discuss the approach and outputs of the investigation at all key junctures. Meetings were held to review and discuss terms of reference, strategic priorities, baseline monitoring scope; approach to analysis, preliminary findings and likely outcomes; interim results, determining significance and potential mitigation measures; full findings, impacts that required mitigation and mitigation measures; mitigation option assessment findings, recommendations and review of stakeholder engagement format.

Importantly, meetings were scheduled when draft methodologies or outputs were available but before they were finalised, to allow scope for stakeholder input to be incorporated. Documents were sent to members of the forum ahead of meetings to allow stakeholders to digest the information so that discussions during meetings were informed.

Lessons learnt

The inclusive nature of the stakeholder engagement used allowed for meaningful contribution to be made throughout the investigation, which gave stakeholders ownership.

Establishing a balanced forum provided the basis a productive environment for contribution, engendering all stakeholders to actively participate rather than just the most vocal.

Stakeholders had different needs from the same investigation, which could only be understood through early and continuous consultation.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

How much is too much?

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close