4 Critical FACTS about Water Neutrality that you need to know?

Updated: Jul 26

Surely you wouldn't make a planning application without considering water neutrality? In this article, we are going to talk about the four facts that you need to consider about water neutrality and the fact that the water industry and water regulators have been considering water neutrality on new developments since 2008. For that and more see you in the next section.


Our articles talk about water neutrality and we aim to give you the best-case studies and great strategies on how you could deliver your scheme faster. Don't get stuck with water neutrality; whether your site is greenfield, brownfield or conversion we can provide you solutions that make your development happen!


We've had the privilege of working in the development sector for the last 20 years and we've worked on strategic sites all the way up to 5,600 units.

We’ve also worked on Great Western Park, Didcot the Kent, Ashford Barracks, The Channels, Essex and other notable schemes. And of course, we also had the opportunity of working on single bungalows.


Each and every site has its own challenges but our strength is to use engineering as a tool to address environmental constraints so that we deliver sustainable developments. So, for this and more see you in the next section.

Now getting back to that all important subject matter, the four facts that you need to understand about water neutrality and how it could potentially affect your development.


Fact number one


Can we put a legal challenge to water neutrality, is it technically viable, do we think that legally the development sector could confront Natural England and challenge the fact that we now have water neutrality? In our experience and in terms of what I’m reading and what we are finding out about this matter we don't think so! For the simple reason that water neutrality enjoys the benefit of some of the most stringent legal framework there is in this land; particularly the triple SSSI, Special Protected Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and RAMSA designation. Most of these environmental constraints are not only national requirements but also international requirements.


The fact that we already have empirical evidence which demonstrates that we're significantly over mining places like the Polborough Brooks where we've got endangered species like the warp snail and other welding birds. This means that it is close to impossible to actually formulate a legal challenge that will stop water neutrality!


We do know that water neutrality at the moment has been applied to the Arun Valley which affects Horsham, Crawley and part of Chichester. However, we think that seriously this matter is going to be with us for a very long time, so developers are reminded to find solutions and to confront this issue with more pragmatism and tact so that they can actually address it, as far back as the master planning stage. Well before they start considering other environmental constraints in terms of coming up with a scheme that they will eventually submit for planning.


So, our advice is if you've got water neutrality issues on your site, find a pragmatic solution of dealing with the problem and that's the best course of action. We do not anticipate that in the regulatory framework there is any technically viable solution of actually avoiding water neutrality. The fundamental issues that you need to understand about the environmental regulations of the UK is that there is a principle which is enshrined within the “precautionary principle” which means that National England do have a duty of care to the environment. And because of the precautionary principle, they can use that tool to consider that in an area where they suspect to be over-mining of water they can apply the water neutrality with the full support of the law.

On the other hand our environmental law actually also has other tenants within it, which state that we should use the Best Available Technology (BAT). Now the best available technology is there to compound and actually deal with water neutrality; you can do greywater recycling, you can use boreholes, you can even go all the way to black water recycling but the fact that we actually have tangible technical solutions that will help you cope with water neutrality means that legally we cannot confront this issue from the stance that we do not have options for us to deal with this issue.


It might be a cost but the fundamental fact is that we need to address it and at the moment the research that we're undertaking and the projects that we're working on water neutrality is costing an average of about £5,000 per unit. In the future, we think that that number will come down. But just as a matter of fact that number is what you need to consider for all of your developments going forward.


So that's fact number one and we do not think that you can legally challenge the position of water neutrality. Awing to the significant environmental constraints that are associated with water neutrality and the fact that we need to protect the environment and endangered species.


Fact number two


Do you know that we're over mining up to 700 million litres per day? Do you know that most of the southeast and southwest are water stressed areas? This means that we do not have enough water to supply our communities and businesses. Some of the water that's coming into the area is actually drawn all the way from the midlands. Do you know that this major issue is also compounded by climate change events where we're having peaks and troughs of rainwater? The implication for developers in these areas particularly within the next two to three years is that water neutrality will become a major consideration. The Environment Agency has stated in publications that it wants us to stop unsustainably mining water from as early as 2025 to 2050. That is when we should have cut off that 700 million litres and the precedent that has been set in the Arun Valley of actually implementing a water neutral strategy. Implies that for new developments in the southeast it is most likely that in the not distant future water neutrality designation will be applied. Anything that's going to be getting into planning within the next two to three years we anticipate is going to need a water neutral strategy or better still if you really want to pull in a green field development or development that's on the edge of boundary of a catchment or development where you really want to drive the environmental ethos. Water neutrality does give you another tool to work with and that is where we can sincerely help you.

In the next section, we will discuss the major planning issues that are actually occurring because of water neutrality in Horsham Crawley and part of Chichester. That will be fact number three that you need to know about water neutrality.


Fact number three


What is the impact of water neutrality and what impact is it actually having on developments, affordable homes, the economic cycles in Horsham Crawley and Chichester. Councillor Peter Smith reports that up to 900 applications are now stalled within Crawley District Council alone. They anticipate the government to take leadership in providing a solution. On the other hand, we have Southern Water that have clearly stated that they expect developers to come to the table with water efficient developments going forward. At Polborough Brooks we have the RSBP stating that, “We are significantly over mining water, and it is very important to safeguard rare species and to safeguard the protected wetlands.” All of these major issues are really significant constraints to developments. One of the major issues that actually has been highlighted as well is the impact on affordable homes and the significant constraints that water neutrality places on delivering large strategic sites. And in particular large strategic sites are quite sensitive to environmental design, net biodiversity and infrastructure design. Therefore, considering water neutrality at the master planning stage is key to actually getting planning and to making sure that you are not making neutral neutrality a bolt-on to your scheme because that will be significantly expensive and that will undermine the viability of your development.

That is where we can actually give you a helping hand and actually show you how to deliver viable economic and truly sustainable developments using water neutrality. In the next section, we're going to talk about what has been happening in the background since as far back as 2008. And how the water industry and regulators have been eagerly trying to find ways of implementing water neutrality, yes you read right the environment agency as far back as 2008 was considering how they could implement water neutrality, particularly on new developments. The next section discusses this in more detail.


Fact number four


Do you realize that since 2008 the Environment Agency and the water industry has been considering how to apply water neutrality onto developments? This is an interesting fact but the fact that we now have water neutrality being applied in the Arun Valley. This means that a precedent has now been set. We can no longer assume that going forward we're going to have a situation where water neutrality is not going to be applicable, particularly in those vulnerable high water usage areas, the high water stressed areas which vulnerable chalk streams and over mined aquifers. We do know that there is now a study led by Affinity Water being sponsored by Ofwa to look at delivering blueprint water neutral developments.


This study has just commenced and it's the tune of £2.9 million. It will study three different phases of the development. However, this is like trying to shut the door after the horses are bolted to be honest. This is playing catch-up this fundamental issue should have been considered long ago as these fundamental issues undermining the environment had been known, having been studied for a long time. We do know that water neutrality at the moment is being applied to those areas where we have the most stringent environmental designations, but we have areas where fish are dying, we've got algae blooms, we've got drying streams. In those areas there is a definite requirement for water neutrality to be applied and more so for us the existing residents in the older houses to reduce our water consumption because it is entirely unsustainable.


So, in terms of these three phases that are now being applied what's going to happen? Phase one is going to look at using water efficient fittings, water efficient washing machines aerated tapes and so forth. However, that's going to include rainwater harvesting. The second phase of this analysis is going to look at 1000 units where they're going to use a centralized greywater recycling systems and some of them will be decentralized in the units. Partners like Aquality and Hydraloop are going to be playing a part in that element. Obviously, in that phase you also have elements of water efficiency. The last and third phase is going to consider 1,000 units looking at a hybrid of greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting plus water efficient fittings; the combined hybrid will also be aided by apps and so forth.


However, I'm glad to say that that hybrid solution that is now being talked about as a research study by Affinity Water is something that we are already doing ourselves on our developments with our developers. And it's something that we can help you with, to aid you to get your planning faster and to deliver those much needed homes sooner. To maintain an equilibrium on affordability in those places that are now constrained by water neutrality and to facilitate the continuous building of developments where they are needed the most, we have come up with tangible, viable and economically sound solutions to deliver water neutral developments. So do not be stalled, let us help you to deliver a water neutral development that is viable, that is attractive, that is sustainable and economic.


Thank you for reading and we have shared with you matters pertaining to water neutrality. We hope you found this article useful, and you found things that are worthy of consideration. Do keep up to date with our articles so we can continue this journey of finding solutions together towards water neutrality and other challenging environmental issues affecting the development sector. We are here to help, we are proud to be helping developers develop sustainable communities whilst also protecting the environment but doing it at an economic cost


We'd love to hear from you so our details are provided below. Hopefully, we'll engage with your scheme and if you need to directly message us. You can just send us an email and we will be sure to come up with a solution that helps you deliver your water neutral development. Thank you for reading.


If you'd like to watch our video on the topic, check it out here!


Read our other article "How water neutrality and nutrient neutrality poses a serious risk to housing in Southern England!".


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CEO Email: tapiwa@wateroffsets.co.uk


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