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South West Water urges committee chair to maintain pressure on funding to tackle invasives

12th February 2020

South West Water is calling on the new chair of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to help tackle the problem of invasive non-native species.

Philip Dunne MP was appointed chair of the committee following the recent General Election.

Last year, under its former chair Mary Creagh MP, the EAC recommended that the Government’s funding to tackle invasive non-native species should be significantly increased.

An EAC Invasive species report, released last October, recommended that funding be increased to at least £3 million a year.

South West Water was proud to be the only water company invited to be interviewed as part of the EAC’s inquiry into the Government’s progress since its predecessor committee’s 2014 report.

As part of the inquiry, in April 2019 the EAC held four public evidence sessions, hearing from 27 witnesses including academics, non-governmental organisations, trade associations and Government agencies.

The water industry was represented by South West Water’s Biosecurity and Invasives Manager, Kate Hills. In 2017 Kate became the first dedicated invasive non-native species (INNS) ecologist to be appointed by a UK water company.

Kate said: “It is recognised that INNS are a particular cause of concern for the water industry and South West Water is proud to be a leader in promoting biosecurity and partnership working.

“We have written to Mr Dunne asking him to continue the EAC’s good work to date and follow up on the excellent recommendations made in the report. The GB Non-native Species Secretariat are a small team and punch above their weight but improved funding is needed to reduce the risks posed by invasives in Britain.

“We are one of eight water companies working closely with the GB Non-native Species Secretariat to improve understanding of INNS, with a particular drive to improve biosecurity measures. The report stated the importance of increasing awareness and we played a key role in revamping the Check, Clean, Dry biosecurity campaign.”

South West Water was also the first UK water company to fund the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International’s control on New Zealand Pigmyweed control, as well as funding PhD research on signal crayfish in the Barle catchment, Exmoor, a PhD on biosecurity techniques with the University of Leeds and a range of local projects including giant hogweed control in the River Tamar catchment. The report rightly stated the importance of volunteers and stated the need to develop a ‘biosecurity citizens’ army’ – something which South West Water is keen to help develop through various partnerships.

In addition to this, South West Water is one of only two water companies to have a target for tackling INNS in its new five-year plan starting in April 2020, including an ambitious programme to install 12 biosecurity facilities at priority sites. It is investing significant time into promoting good biosecurity to prevent the spread of INNS and working closely with key partners such as South West Lakes Trust, reservoir recreational users, the Angling Trust, local groups and the Environment Agency.

Notes to editor
• South West Water was the first UK water company to create a dedicated invasives post; which represents all companies on national forums and groups including GB Non-native Species Secretariat England Working Group, Angling Pathway Action Plan (PAP) and Rapid Life EU Programme. South West Water is also defining its own regional PAPs and in doing so engaging with a range of stakeholders to ensure these are relevant and consistently used.
• South West Water inspired the establishment of and supports two local county invasive forums, and held the first regional forum. It was the only water company to give evidence at the EAC on invasives last summer at Westminster and the only water company to be invited to the select crayfish review meeting.
• South West Water established the Water Companies' INNS forum in Exeter (2017) and input to the first UK Water Industry Research impacts review (2016).
• South West Water is investing significant time into promoting good biosecurity to prevent the spread of invasives and is using the signal crayfish as an example. Biosecurity can be a dry issue so the company has installed a six-foot carved crayfish to promote the need for biosecurity.
• During the next financial year (2020/21) South West Water is planning to install wash down facilities installing wash down facilities at two key sites. It has a unique working relationship with the Angling Trust to work with fishermen, as they are particularly concerned about crayfish and have been challenged locally by fishing groups.
• South West Water is closely involved with the Devon Invasive Species Initiative, Cornwall Invasive Non-Native Group and Cornwall Invasive Species Group. With its trusted partners South West Lakes Trust, it has conducted workshops across its operational regions of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset to further engage and improve awareness. This will be a key relationship that it will build on with an aim to develop Site Guardians to assist operationally.
• South West Water set up the Water Company Invasive Species Forum facilitating knowledge share and best practice. Some water companies are funding research with academia into the risks, impacts and management implications of invasive species on treatment processes and infrastructure. This is running parallel to water companies and South West Water’s own investigations which will comprehensively risk assess a number of raw water transfers both within and across catchments.
• South West Water has been a key member of the EU-funded project Rapid Life and in developing the South West Regional Invasive Management Plan (RIMP) which provides a consistent but regionally appropriate set of recommendations and guidance on INNS management.

For further information please contact:

South West Water