Upstream thinking

Upstream Thinking (UST) is South West Water's ambitious and innovative Natural Capital-based catchment management programme. Since 2006 this programme has invested £20m on protecting the rivers and reservoirs of the region from detrimental landscape impacts. Delivery is through third-party partners, who have developed significant knowledge of the catchments while creating widespread support and trust from land owners and managers. Their farm advisors engage with farmers and provide advice, business planning, and grants for farm infrastructure and habitat restoration to bring about behaviour change and Natural Capital improvements. This increases the flow of Environmental Goods and Services (EGS) (e.g. clean raw water) from farms to deliver improved business performance in the following areas:

  • Pro-active management of Drinking Water Protected Areas (DrWPA) at risk and increased raw water usability due to reduced pollutant loads and sustained and elevated base-flows
  • Drinking Water treatment works (DWTW) efficiency due to avoidance of shutdowns from pollution, taste and odour failures, and lower asset running costs
  • Long term business protection against future uncertainty (e.g. climate change and emerging catchment threats such as new chemicals)
  • Statutory environmental protection and delivery of wider environmental responsibilities (e.g. the Environment Agency’s Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP)).

The investment for the next 5 years will be across 18 catchments in the SW region including the River Stour, supporting the stated customers’ priorities of;

  • A clean, safe and reliable supply of drinking water
  • Reliable wastewater service
  • Resilience
  • Protecting the environment.

The wide range of external stakeholders engaged ensures that the proposed programme has broad support resulting in a high confidence of success.