There has a move back towards catchment based working for a number of years, and this has brought many advantages, especially in regard to environmental improvements. Generally however such working tends to be sector and company based. Although there have been a few cross sector studies and solutions, these are the exception rather than the rule.
There are a number of disruptive factors, such as the European Water Framework Directive, that are increasingly moving organisations towards multi sector and company integrated catchment solutions. There are already many studies that are pin-pointing pollution, both point source and diffuse, and moving solutions towards beneficial outcomes and away from ‘tick box’ outputs. There are similar studies looking at drought risk. However there are very few examples where such studies are joined, let alone linked to other water related impacts, such as flooding and agricultural production.
As new tools, especially the ability to collate and use large and disparate data sources, and the rise of AI, become increasingly available and affordable, such catchment whole water cycle working will increase, and provide real benefit across sectors. To enable this however will not only require new technology, but more importantly changes in working practice. For example, sharing of data between organisations will be critical. Individuals will need to understand more about the issues and potential solutions for others affected by the water cycle in an area. Whilst the technical challenges are complex, the organisational and people aspects present even bigger challenges. We must however overcome such issues if we are to deliver truly holistic and sustainable solutions.