NERC research into water security creates UK benefits worth billions

19 December 2016

NERC's world-leading research has led to economic and environmental benefits for the UK by helping to strengthen regulation in the water industry while avoiding disproportionately expensive requirements.

Water plant

Water treatment plant

These are the findings of a NERC-commissioned analysis by Deloitte, which estimated that NERC research will generate up to £7 billion in cost savings for UK businesses. These benefits started to accrue in 2015 and will continue to do so until 2051.

The report highlights how NERC science played a key role in setting the Water Framework Directive (WFD) water quality standards before and after the directive was introduced in 2000, ensuring that every revision was based on robust, reliable science.

The savings accrued by scrapping WFD compliance schemes that cost too much for the environmental benefits they deliver. Achieving these savings also means that the implementation of the WFD is delivering additional net benefits worth £5·5 billion from cleaner water.

NERC Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:

"I am extremely pleased with our achievements. NERC is proud to be a funder of research that contributes to economic savings and water security in the UK. This analysis demonstrates that investment in environmental science can deliver high returns."

NERC research in this area also helps to provide a sufficient and secure supply of water for public and business use. Through the NERC Future Flows & Groundwater Levels project, Defra and the Environment Agency are able to predict the quantity of water that will exist nearly a hundred years into the future. This will help water companies reach decisions on supply for the coming decades.

The water industry contributed over £9·8 billion to the UK economy in 2014. NERC invests around £65 million a year in freshwater related research.

Further information can be found in the Impacts of NERC science - Water security report.

Further information

Karen Christian
NERC media office
01793 411568
07827 872454