RAPID February Newsletter

The Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID) brings together people from Ofwat, Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate to improve regulation and remove barriers to help the water sector respond to long term water resources challenges.

The New Year has got off to a flying start for the RAPID team with our new Managing Director, Paul Hickey taking up his post, Colin Green from Ofwat joining as our Frameworks Director and Caroline Knight, an Inspector from the Drinking Water Inspectorate, providing us with drinking water quality expertise.

From the conversations that are happening across the team and the insight this is generating it is very clear that RAPID has the potential to make a big difference for realising our shared vision for all water users.

Progress since last time

The RAPID team continue to engage with a range of stakeholders with interests in water resources issues. It is clear that there is a building momentum to make this a breakthrough period for the development of new water resources. Transformation feels within reach because of the diversity of people and groups seeking to move this agenda forward and the collective sense of energy this creates.

Rigorous assessment processes are an important part of holding and maintaining public confidence. Three schemes in the RAPID portfolio will navigate the first stage gate in September 2020. This gate will decide if the schemes should receive further funding to progress their feasibility work. Working with the water companies we have developed a template for data submission. Thames Water and Southern Water have helpfully populated the template with dummy data to test our processes and assessment. We’ll report back on how this has gone in the next newsletter.

RAPID is breaking new ground in promoting the delivery of ‘best value’ approaches to water resources. Understanding what best value is and how it can be delivered is a really challenging task. It’s been heartening to see groups like Water Resources East engage their membership with a vision of how traditional water infrastructure could be re-imagined to deliver multiple benefits. Key to the success of this engagement has been taking something abstract and making it tangible through visualisations. Learning from this experience, RAPID will adopt this way of working to help stakeholders engage with our work.

When gathering customer and stakeholder feedback across many different groups it is important that results and insights generated are comparable. The RAPID Communications and Engagement group has now met twice to develop common approaches. One output of our meetings is a set of Frequently Asked Questions that we are developing with Welsh Government. This document will be kept up to date to help to ensure that core information shared is consistent.

Our project work is making good progress. Jacobs were awarded the first tender in January to explore if there are any missing water resource options to those featured in company plans. The other two invitations to tender covering bulk supply arrangements and modelling the sequence and resilience of the strategic schemes close soon. We look forward to making more contract awards before the next edition of our newsletter.

Consistent with our desire to operate transparently we recently published our Terms of Reference. Agreed across the three regulators, the document sets out our scope and the ways of working we will adopt to deliver our shared goal.

Coming up in the next quarter

  • Refine our Accelerated Gate 1 process following testing
  • Finalise the assessment criteria for Accelerated Gate 1
  • Progress resolving the issues raised at first quarterly liaison meeting
  • Hold the second quarterly liaison meeting
  • Work with the Environment Agency on changes to the next WRMP process
  • Continue to explore opportunities to join up water resources with flood risk management
  • Assess the remaining consultancy tenders, let contracts and manage the projects
  • Prioritise other consultancy projects to commission

We’re continuing to build our distribution list so if you think that someone would like to receive this newsletter please ask them to email rapid@ofwat.gov.uk.

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