Sustainability research theme


UKWIR has collaborated closely with the Meteorological Office as well as the Environment Agency on the inputs into this programme area. This ensures climate change scenarios are provided in a format that the industry can easily assimilate. Research has looked into climate change impacts on the water company functions including the asset management planning process, the hydraulic design of sewerage systems and on river flows and groundwater recharge.

New areas being explored include, circular economy, natural capital and reducing carbon footprint.

Programme Lead(S)

Mark Williams

Climate Change
Scottish Water






Carbon Accounting Workbook Update v12 March 2018

Project Status Project submitted as Complete

UKWIR's carbon accounting tool is a well respected workbook tool that has enabled the industry to consistently report and track operational carbon emissions for over 10 years.  It requires annual updates to accommodate changes in emission factors and to ensure the emission boundaries are consistent with both external guidance and to reflect the latest thinking in the industry.


Recently discussions at UKWIR have suggested that in future the tool may need to be managed and updated by companies separate from the UKWIR process.  To that end, this year's proposal includes a small provision to facilitate the transfer of this activity from UKWIR if that is the desired path.


Carbon, Sustainability, circular economy, natural capital, net positive....where are we and where should we be?

Project Status Project submitted as Complete

The UK Water Industry has always been spirited to promote sutainability and create a significant positive contribution to society. It has been continually discussing and working in areas to achieve it but there is no study which captures this achievement, positive impacts and ultimately the net contribution of the sector.

The Water industry has added expectations of government, regulators, NGOs and customers for a long term sustainable approach that will support society across the challenges of the coming decades. In particular, circular economy and natural capital are the latest areas that customer investment fora are increasingly seeking information on.

Thus this project will provide the evidence that the Water industry as a sector is socially, environmentally and financially responsible and help to map out the current position and further improvement that can be done.


UKWIR Greenhouse Gas Emissions Workbook update V13 & V14

Project Status Project Commenced

The UKWIR greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions workbook has underpinned operational carbon reporting for companies for more that 10 years and has enabled the sector to be recogsnised as taking a lead on carbon and providing credible and consistent reporting on carbon in company and regulatory reports.

The workbook requires annual updates to ensure the latest DEFRA etc guidance on emission factors and boundaries are accommodated and there may also be updates according to company wishes for levels of reporting and use.

These updates are critical to ensure the continued utility of the workbook, however having changed providers for the most recent update, there is some consideration to doing this in a different way in the future, which may mean that we spread the current proposal over 2 years and deliver 2 updates - minor in year 1 to correct and update figures and major in year 2 to consolidate industry requests for changes to the tool.  this will need to be confirmed at scoping for tender purposes.


Carbon Accounting in the Water Industry; Workbook for Estimating Operational GHG Emissions, Version 11, March 2017

Project Status Project Completed

The UKWIR Carbon Accounting Workbook (CAW) has provided UK water companies with a consistent and transparent approach for accounting for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their annual operatinal activities since its first publication by UKWIR in 2004.

The CAW provides estimates of the GHGs indentified in the Kyoto Protocol, which are produced as a result of the operational activities of water and wastewater companies; these include water treatment and distribution, wastewater collection and treatment, and sludge management.  Estimates are made following UK Government Guidance as presented in 'Environmental Reporting Guidelines' published by Defra in 2013; and conversion factors published annually by Defra dn DECC.

The UKWIR GHG emissions workbook is recognised as industry leading, and each year requires updating to ensure the latest emission factors, boundaries and Defra/DECC guidance is taken into account.

The project for the 2015-16 update will complete in June 2016.  This project is to secure a further update, to begin in the Autumn of 2016.


Climate Change Modelling and the WRMP

Project Status Project Completed

Modelling the effect of climate change on water supply is a requirement of the WRMP. The 2014 WRMP recommended the use of UKCP09 climate change modelling to estimate the impact of climate change on the Deployable Output of a Water company. Whilst we are certain that UKCP09 projections give the best estimate of climate change in the UK, there are a number of problems with using these projections to estimate the effect on water supply. One of the main issues is that UKCP09 projections show the effect of climate change on 30 year average periods, whilst it is the extremes in weather which will impact Deployable Output. The huge uncertainty in the projections is not transparently reflected in the methodology, which forces a company to report a Deployable Output figure for climate change at a date in the future, with this value changing linearly according to the Environment Agency equations. Although we can be certain that climate change is happening, we know that it does not happen linearly, that the extremes not the average will affect the ability to supply water, and that we do not know which of the 10,000 UKCP09 model projections is the correct one. In the 2014 WRMP, each water company spent many tens of thousands of pounds on modelling the impacts of climate change on Deployable Output. For the next WRMP, indications are that even more climate change analyses may be required. For climate vulnerable water resources zones, all 10,000 UKCP09 models may have to be run to estimate the effects of climate change. This poses a huge threat to water companies, since having to model all 10,000 UKCP09 models would take up a huge amount of resource.  

Reducing the number of model runs required could reduce the workload, (and therefore expenditure) by 100 or 1000 times.


Implementing ecosystem service and natural and social capital accounting approaches - testing & evaluation case study test of the tool

Project Status Project Commenced

No Further Information Available.


Implementing ecosystem service and natural and social capital accounting approaches Phase 1

Project Status Project Completed

The apparent benefits of ecosystem service and catchment level thinking are well trailed in examples from improved drinking water quality to flood attenuation and climate change resilience.


The key challenge is how we quantify and encapsulate these within a robust and credible appraisal that will be acceptable to quality and economic regulators.


Consideration of ecosystem services and natural capital accounting is increasingly highlighted by environmental regulators and stakeholders when making decisions, however there is a lack of clear understanding on what this means for the water sector. The focus on outcomes lends itself to wider thinking in setting out the multiple benefits from investment choices, which may extend beyond the immediate service, particularly when we think about how water catchments operate at a macro level.

Benefits and costs extend as much into Social and Human capital. A range of sustainable accounting techniques are being developed to support more effective risk management and decision making. The concept of Capitals is gaining increasing traction with policy makers and business leaders. This is the theory that effective management requires consideration of Natural, Social and Human Capitals, alongside the more traditional recognition of Financial and Manufactured Capitals. The Natural Capital Coalition, a growing consortium of international organisations, will publish the first Natural Capital Protocol in summer 2016. The Protocol will be the world’s first standardised framework for Natural Capital Assessment. Defra have recognised and shown support for this approach, for example renewing the Natural Capital Committee and committing to publish a long term Natural Capital Strategy.


Application of Natural and Social Capital assessment techniques in the water industry will enable companies to enhance risk management and decision making through quantification, and potentially monetisation, of a broad range of impact areas. Quantification and monetisation of natural and social impacts (positive and negative) is likely to support industry objectives for collaborative and innovative approaches including, for example, catchment management and storm water management.


By developing guidance and tools on the practical application of Natural and Social Capital Accounting, the water industry could demonstrate its leadership and inform external developments by Defra and others.


In 2015 project CL04 was commissioned to scope the key concerns on how Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) and Ecosystem Service Assessment (ESA) could be applied in the water sector. It was driven by the increasing interest of regulators and government, stakeholder expectations (NGOs), and explicit references to sustainable decision making in legislation such as WFD. Environmental change, and the value and resilience of systems also need to be considered, given the long term nature of our business.


This research recommended key steps in delivering catchment level case studies of NCA, utilising some of the frameworks that are being developed or are already available. From this we would propose to develop a workbook type tool to enable companies to demonstrate the capability to apply this thinking robustly to investment choices.


This would need to be a key engagement piece with regulators.



Rainfall Intensity for Sewer Design - Stage 2

Project Status Project Completed

UKWIR's Rainfall intensity for Sewer Design achieved an important and innovative outcome in taking new CONVEX models to assess the impact of climate change on the short duration rainfall events most likely to impact customers. This was the first time that it had been possible to integrate climate change into drainage planning models.

The results gave some significant concerns to the industry, leading to the work being peer reviewed, leading to further recommendations.

As the CONVEX models did not at the time cover all of the UK it was accepted that the project would need to be extended to cover the UK. The Met Office will complete the CONVEX model runs to cover NIW, Scottish Water, UU, Yorkshire and Northumbrian by the end of the 2015 enabling this to occur.

Additionally, further work was identified to cross-reference the modelled outputs with data analogues to provide more confidence in the modelled outcomes.

It is further anticipated that the Met Office 1.5km probabilistic scenarios, currently in completion, will be avalialble during 2016 to improve further the confidence in the depth-duration-frequency estimates for design rainfall and regional climate factors.

Current work has highlighted a significant gap between the current guidance on uplift factors and the potential impact from climate change.  This needs to be closed in order to ensure we are planning and delivering drainage that is resilient in future scenarios. 


BQ How do we achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards by 2050? Risk assessment of CIP data with respect to implications for drinking water sources

Project Status Project submitted as Complete

To determine whether any emerging contaminants, measured through the Chemical Investigation Programme, pose a potential risk to the quality of drinking water supplies.


The Chemical Investigation Programme (CIP) Phase 1 &2 has monitored a large number of chemicals that may be entering the aquatic environment from our wastewater treatment processes.  This data, however, has not been looked at in terms of the potential impacts on drinking water quality.


We currently do not know the impact that these chemicals have on raw water quality for sources located downstream of a waste water treatment works.


This project is an enabler for future work to meet the outcome “An appropriate balance of risk with regards to substances of concern, their public health impact, and mitigation”. It is the first project in a series that will allow the Industry to demonstrate to its customers and other stakeholders, including regulators, that it keeps the upstream risks it faces under review as data becomes available.  Subsequent projects will look in more detail on issues such as treatability i.e. determine if the disinfection process for water containing these chemicals give rise to unwanted by-products of health concern or cause taste and odour issues.


Catchment Management for Water Quality & Quantity

Project Status Project Commenced

The drinking water and environmental regulators have stated that they see the main effort to improve water quality / quantity to be based at a catchment level. This will aid the minimisation of algae, pesticides and colour in the raw water sources which in turn will minimise issues water companies face from taste & odour contacts.

The previous UKWIR project, “Quantifying the benefits of Catchment Management” was undertaken over 5 years ago and the project “Catchment Management – how do we know its worked” was started in 2015/16 but put on hold indefinitely. Catchment management has gained traction since then with some companies making great progress. The time is right for a review of the evidence, for or against, catchment management.


Development and deployment of a multivariate decision support tool for the CIP catchment studies programme

Project Status Project Completed


Logistical Support and Co-ordination of the Delivery Phase of the National Chemical Investigations Programme 2015-2020

Project Status Project Commenced

No Further Information Available.

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