#SustyTalk: Ofwat’s John Russell on green innovation for the water sector

edie's #SustyTalk series of exclusive interviews continues with Ofwat’s senior director John Russell, who outlines which green innovations the UK water sector will need to reduce its environmental impact and adapt to climate change.


#SustyTalk: Ofwat’s John Russell on green innovation for the water sector

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#SustyTalk is all about keeping edie’s loyal readers connected to sustainable business leaders across the world, whilst reminding us all that sustainability and climate action must go on through the current Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. It launched in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 and has continued since then, keeping us connected to the inspirational business leaders who are continuing to drive sustainability and climate action.

This latest #SustyTalk episode sees edie’s senior reporter Sarah George in conversation with Ofwat’s senior director of strategy, finance and infrastructure, John Russell.

Russell sets out some of the biggest and most pressing environmental challenges for the UK’s water sector, which Ofwat regulates. Beyond tackling leaks, pollution spills and storm overflows, the sector is also aiming to reach net-zero by 2030 – no mean feat when it is a major energy user, accounting for around 3% of the UK’s electricity demand.

Moreover, the sector is particularly vulnerable to climate change and will need to build in adaptive features to be fit for the future.

Russell discusses how, to rise to these challenges, the water sector will need to innovate in new ways. To that end, Ofwat is allocating millions of pounds in challenge funding through to 2025, calling on water companies and those outside of the sector to present green solutions.

Ofwat recently opened a new £4m Water Discovery Challenge, which will reward innovators from outside of the sector with up to £500,000 each in grant funding for innovations such as digital technologies, carbon capture and bacteria-based water cleaning systems. Russell is on hand to explain the mix of solutions the sector will likely need to meet its environmental goals.

He tells edie: “We’ve got some strategic aims of what we’re doing with out challenge funding… and one is, principally, to build the capacity and capability for the sector to do things differently. These things sit outside of the traditional comfort zone of [water] companies, but they are going to have to be mainstreamed.

“There’s innovation to be had, to be honest, in how you take things from pilot phase to deployability…. Some of the things we’ve seen and funded have been to build collaboration infrastructure.”

To learn more about the Challenge and to enter, click here: https://waterinnovation.challenges.org/

Click here to see our catalogue of #SustyTalk interviews.

Want to be featured on a future episode of #SustyTalk? Email [email protected]. Please bear in mind that our interview calendar is typically booked several weeks in advance. We are now booked for the remainder of March.

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