Results from the 2019-20 reporting initiative confirm that CaBA represents an important mechanism for the delivery of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (HM Government, 2018) highlighting that the work partnerships undertake is directly related to several of the 25YEP goals.
Connecting People with the Environment: During 2019-20, CaBA partnerships engaged over 17,000 new primary stakeholders including members of the public, farmers, local businesses and community groups. This building of social capital included the creation of support networks for farmers thereby helping to reduce isolation, numerous volunteer and citizen science opportunities that build local ownership of environment issues, and community engagement in flood projects.
Clean and Plentiful Water: Nearly 400 CaBA projects addressed rural diffuse pollution, with partnerships working with farmers on soil and nutrient management, riparian buffer strips and fencing, and farm infrastructure improvements.
A key objective of 250 and 233 projects was to reduce urban diffuse and point source pollution, respectively. Improvements in aquatic ecological quality were widely reported.
Creating and Protecting Habitat and Improving Biodiversity: 150 projects led to 2,500 ha of habitat creation including wetlands, flower-rich grasslands, moorland restoration, riparian and in-river habitats. Ninety barriers to fish migration were removed or mitigated, opening 670 km of river. Over 300 km of invasive species were cleared from river corridors and other locales, often through local community support.
Reducing Risk of Harm from Flooding and Drought & Adapting to Climate Change: More than 400 projects addressed flood risk, typically through implementation of natural management techniques. An increasing number of CaBA partnerships are working to support the adoption of a strategic, catchmentwide approach to the management of water resources.
Greening our Towns and Cities: More than 300 projects included a focus upon green-blue infrastructure, such as wetlands, in the urban environment. Nearly half of partnerships have local authority planning teams involved in the partnership, and more than three quarters work with local authority environment teams. Typically, such delivery included multiple beneficial outcomes including reduced flood risk and the building of climate resilience, improved water quality, and the opportunity for local communities to engage with nature.
During 2019/20, for every £1 directly invested by Government, CaBA partnerships raised approximately £2.20 from non-governmental funders including water companies, businesses, lottery funds, EU funds and grant giving trusts. This diverse mix of funding sources aligns with the 25 YEP statement that ‘the right mix of public and private funding and financing for projects that protect and enhance natural assets will be crucial to its successful delivery’ (HM Government, 2018). The ratio has fallen compared to the previous year due to the diminishing availability of European funds and the impact of Covid-19.
CaBA provides a strong framework for developing greater integration of water governance in England and can help to join up and coordinate different plans and initiatives (Collins et al., 2020). With sufficient and sustained funding, CaBA can support the delivery of Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans, realise synergistic outcomes with Nature Recovery Networks and develop a more strategic and sustainable use of water resources. CaBA can continue to mobilise local expertise to collect data and build evidence to support decision-making and cost-effective delivery – increasingly critical in the light of resource constraints associated with regulatory monitoring of the water environment.
Finally, CaBA provides the ideal platform, currently markedly underused, for public awareness campaigns focused, for example, upon water efficiency, the use and disposal of chemicals in the home and garden and medicine take-back schemes.