I think I can safely say that the CCN first annual meeting last Tuesday can be declared a success. A wonderful turn out (requiring a change to a larger lecture theatre), some very interesting presentations and some very interesting discussion involving academics, environment agency, Ofwat, water companies, other practitioners, and artists!!
Surely something of interest even for those who only came to get some CIWEM CPD credits and hopefully enough to keep some of you interested in keeping up with what is happening in CCN!!! Certainly lots of interesting questions for future research. Thanks to CIWEM for their support for the meeting (if you want to consider joining then go to: www.ciwem.org). Particular thanks to all the speakers, and to Ruth for managing the organization so well, including some very last minute requests.
Now is the time for us to start planning the year ahead, taking account of the points that were brought up in the discussions. As I said in my summary at the end of the day, the discussion had raised the bar for the ambitions of CCN, all we have to do is to solve the problem of involving all of society in integrated and sustainable catchment management. As Graham Harris (Director here at LEC) noted on Tuesday, the Australian experience suggests that this might take some time!!
That is not, of course, any reason not to make a start and we will be thinking about how best to do this in collaboration with other projects, such as the Defra Demonstration Test Catchments project which is now up and running (see, for example, http://www.edendtc.org.uk/ for the River Eden DTC project). Any readers (is there anybody out there?) should feel free to make suggestions about workshops or training events that might be useful to you.
The CCN Annual Meeting was always intended as an opportunity to reflect on research and training needs. Things that I picked up on from the discussion was the limitations of existing modeling capabilities for water quality and ecology, the need to move to more risk-based approaches to catchment change and water resources management, the difficulties of doing so because there are so many uncertainties that are knowledge or epistemic uncertainties and therefore difficult to quantify, and the need to involve whole communities of local stakeholders (and re-create lost collective knowledge) in the issues posed by catchment change. These issues are complementary (if difficult) aspects of integrated catchment management.
As someone involved in modeling, the discussion about whether it was even possible to develop adequate models of water quality and ecology was particularly interesting. Sharp opinions were expressed both for and against. The problem is that prioritization of policy in environmental improvement requires some quantification of benefits resulting from potential investments – even if these might have a long time scale. Those policies will be in competition with other potential investments at the national scale (and this competition will be stronger given the current economic outlook). So there is a need to quantify…. as well as trying to achieve effective community buy-in to bring about sustainable improvements to water quality and ecology. However, there is still much to understand about how to quantify some of these “complexity thicket” problems that are subject to epistemic errors about both processes, local parameters, and future boundary conditions.