This was the core message of Mike Keill, head of climate change for water industry regulator Ofwat, when he spoke at the IWEX trade show this morning.

Mr Keill spoke to edie before his presentation and outlined what he would be covering.

“The angle is that we really need sustainable water and sewage services in the long term, but this is about really trying to understand what ‘sustainable’ means,” he said.

“Sustainability is much wider than just the environment – there are economic and social factors too and we mustn’t lose sight of that. What we’re trying to do is make sure that the right balance is there.”

He said that the five principles of sustainable development drawn up by Government were a great starting point but the one-size-fits-all approach meant it could be hard to apply them to the water sector.

“They’ve been designed to be applicable across all government departments so they can appear a bit dry,” said Mr Keill.

“We’ve translated these into something more relevant to the water industry and tried to bring them to life a bit, making them easier to understand and more useful.”

He added that over the past five years Ofwat’s own understanding of sustainability had grown rapidly, using as an example the fact that his own post as head of climate change had not existed in the past.

“We’re now more aware of these issues and that makes us a better regulator,” he said.

He also emphasised the need for the water companies to work with the regulator on delivering this agenda.

“We want to make sure that the right regulatory framework in place and we can make sure we’ve got the right approach towards sustainability but the actual delivery of water and sewage services is by the companies,” he said.

“We can play our part but the companies have to play theirs too.”

Sam Bond

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