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Shining a spotlight on Water resilience


The Resilience Spotlight is an initiative of the Bristol Resilience Network, which is part of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. Every month in 2015, we have invited nominations for someone in the city who demonstrates how we can work at a local level to develop Bristol’s capacity to respond to shocks and stresses.

The theme for September’s resilience spotlight was water. We were looking for someone who is helping to develop systems to assure water supply in Bristol in times of water shortages or drought, and is raising awareness and preparedness for these concerns.

patricPatric Bulmer describes himself as an ‘old hand’ after 25 years working in the water industry. A graduate of geochemistry, Patric moved from lab work to more environmentally focused work within Bristol Water, taking with him his passion for ecology and environmental responsibility. There is a lot of work already happening in Bristol to protect our water supply in light of increasing pressures the region will face in the next 25 years. These include

Over the next 25 years, our area will face increasing pressures due to growth and climate change:

  • Population to increase by 20%
  • Number of houses to increase by 30%
  • Growth in businesses in line with population to support employment
  • Summers will be drier reducing water availability
  • Winters will be wetter, increasing risks of flooding
  • Quality of surface waters threatened by increased pollution
  • More water required to maintain environmental systems

Much of this is ongoing work for Bristol Water, such as ensuring the resilience of the water supply networks and planning for drought. The Water Resources Management Plan outlines how the coming 30 years will bring social, economic and environmental challenges which could reduce the availability of water, while the demand for water increases due to a growing population. It sets out what impacts these challenges will have, and how Bristol Water intends to manage them.

However, Patric believes this is just “business as usual’ for a water company”. What is more interesting, explains Patric, is to “understand how a city, not just a water company, can display good water management”. And for Patric, part of the answer is to get everyone thinking about water. “Most of the time people don’t think about water at all, unless we don’t have access to it – in which case it is all we think about!”

Do we consider where our water actually comes from in Bristol? Have we been there and seen it at ‘source’ before it makes its way to our taps? After Patric took over the responsibility of Bristol Water’s water efficiency programme 4 years ago, he has been frequently asking these questions.

Patric reminds us of the importance of remembering that our water comes from the natural environment; so of course how we use it will have an impact on the environment. This is not something we always think about, but by understanding this better we will hopefully be a bit more careful about the water we use. Patric firmly believes it is much easier to care about something we know about.

As part of the water efficiency programme, their website offers water efficiency tips and advice for gardeners. It lists a month-by-month action plan on how to grow a water-efficient garden – including mulching, drought-resistant plants, water-storing crystals and raising the blades on the lawn mower so that the grass is longer.

WP_20150612_007More recently, Patric as Chair of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership Water Action Group led the project to install a water fountain in the centre of Bristol. The Tap into Bristol project aims to help people to understand the links between our water supply and the natural world. Installed in Millennium Square there is a special ‘porthole’ into the square to show the underground infrastructure it takes to make a modern city work. It also shows the important link between water and energy by installing a special energy-generating turbine that generates electricity from the flow of water through the water main in the square. People are encouraged to bring re-usable bottles and use the free water supply during their city summer outings in order to reduce plastic waste and litter – and save money.

Patric’s challenge to Bristolians is to “get out and visit where our water comes from” – Chew Valley lake, Blagdon lake, Cheddar reservoir. The whole reason these places exist are to provide water to our taps (therefore they are partly ‘ours’ which is an interesting thought…). We should make time to enjoy these beautiful places, and take a minute to remind ourselves this is the water that ends up in our taps. Certainly something to get us thinking!

Ian Roderick, Chair of the Resilience Network and Director of the Schumacher Institute says: “It’s so easy to take clean, plentiful water for granted – turn the tap and it’s always there. But if the tap runs dry then we have immediate and potentially life threatening problems. It is great to see people like Patric who have such passion to maintain and improve our water systems”.

Blog written by Kim Dowsett, Climate Change Advisor at the Environment Agency

The next theme is International/Convergence – to nominate someone who has improved the resilience of other communities across the globe, email before the deadline on Friday 13th November.



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