South East Water has been revealed as one of the winners of a national £2 million Innovation in Water Challenge (IWC) for an initiative that aims to improve water habitats for native species.

CatchmentLIFE, is a bespoke software package which aims to make scientific recording of habitats and wildlife easy for everyone to take part in, including volunteers.

The computer programme will allow communities to get involved in reporting on the wildlife in their area which will support scientific experts by providing much more data and information about the water habitats than can be collected alone.

The design was submitted to Ofwat’s Innovation Fund - where £2 million was available for ideas that tackle shared problems faced by the water sector – and was voted as one of just 11 winners from a packed field.

Debbie Wilkinson, Groundwater Manager at South East Water said: “I have had the idea for this software for quite some time and this innovation fund is allowing it to become reality.

“Seeing is often believing so I wanted to make something that could show the damage caused to habitats in the hope we can protect our water species. The software is based on a series of ecological models and will be user-friendly as we aim to design it by working with users from a broad spectrum of organisations.”

CatchmentLIFE has been developed by South East Water with partners Bristol Water plc, Earthwatch Europe, Environment Agency, Loughborough University, Natural Resources Wales, SES Water, The River Restoration Centre (RRC), University of Huddersfield, and Wessex Water Services Ltd. It will receive £197,000 in total to take the project forward.

Emma Goddard, Head of Environment at South East Water, went on to describe how CatchmentLIFE has the potential to improve water habitats.

She said: “This Innovation in Water Challenge funding is providing an incredible opportunity to trial a new approach that will identify the impact water catchment pressures can have on our native species.

“It has the potential to have a profound impact on the ecological status and improve water habitats nationally and identify collaborative options to resolve issues at the root-cause.”  

Recommended by an independent panel of judges, CatchmentLIFE is one of 11 collaborative initiatives led by water companies and involving a number of partner organisations, that will receive up to £250,000 each to tackle the biggest issues facing the water sector in England and Wales.

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat, said: “Innovation has the potential to drive a sea-change in the water sector and tackle some of the biggest challenges we are facing in society. Solutions such as this will make a real impact in the coming months and mark the beginning of a new wave of innovation in the sector.”

Run by Ofwat and Nesta Challenges, and supported by Arup and Isle Utilities, the IWC was the first competition this year within Ofwat’s £200 million Innovation Fund. It is part of the regulator’s goal to create an innovative and collaborative water sector that meets the evolving needs of customers, society and the environment in the years to come.

To find out more about the IWC and the full list of winning entries visit waterinnovation.challenges.org

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