The DRY project held its first local advisory group meeting last Friday at Lanhydrock House, a National Trust property within the Fowey River catchment where we are hosting our first pilot case study. As part of the project we are working with different organisations that are involved in water management and drought planning at the local level of the river catchment. On Friday, we had representatives from the National Trust, the Environment Agency, South West Water, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), Fowey Harbour Commissioners, the Westcountry Rivers Trust and Cornwall Council Public Health. The group offered a real mix of expertise and perspectives about water issues and drought concerns in the area.
To kick the meeting off Lindsey McEwen and Mike Wilson from the project team introduced the project and showed some digital stories about drought from the US and Australia. It was really great to see how these examples kicked off discussions in the group. Stakeholder representatives who interact with farmers in the catchment immediately identified with the story of nomadic agriculture (travelling to find water for cattle) told in the digital stories. James Blake (from CEH) gave a really clear explanation of the science and history of UK drought with some interesting Fowey-specific data. The fact that Cornwall’s population is due to grow by 19% in 2037 alongside a growing ageing population (over 65s increase from 23% to 31%)[i] and an increase in water consumption by tourists (up to 50% in the summer) are important considerations for managing the Fowey catchment which serves a large part of the Cornish population with water (the catchment can contribute up to 65%).[ii]
For our first meeting we wanted to get a sense of what the unique issues in the catchment were and how organisations are planning for drought locally. We split into groups to think about the enablers and barriers of drought risk management in the Fowey. Several groups made the observation that that there is a buffer for the general public in times of water shortage and so one of the biggest obstacles is the ‘disconnect’ between the tap and where that water comes from. Another was the perception in the South West that drought does not happen, which was related to another comment about confusion over different definitions of drought. Some opportunities for the area were noted. The Fowey catchment has large land owners who could model best practice. The area is experiencing increased discussion about water quality of which the issue of water use/scarcity could become a part of.
The day resulted in some excellent discussions for us to take forward in our planning for the next stage of the project and we hope our future meetings in the Fowey catchment are just as engaging and productive!