Table 2.

Example of a non-technical summary for water resource managers

Lower Mersey Basin and North Merseyside, North West England Groundwater Resources Study
Non-technical executive summary
The outcomes of the study have made a significant contribution to delivering many of the environmental goals set out in the Environment Agency's Corporate strategy of Creating a Better Place; a better quality of life and enhanced environment for wildlife.
Improved and protected inland and coastal waters
The study has focussed on the Permo-Triassic sandstone aquifer, which is the most important groundwater resource within the region, supporting both public supply and industrial abstraction. Our improved understanding of the very complex aquifer system and its response to abstraction pressure over the last century have allowed us to improve quantification of groundwater resource availability and also to forecast future groundwater level changes. We are better able to develop management strategies, regulatory approaches and partnerships to tackle historic problems of over-abstraction and saline intrusion.
Restored, protected land with healthy soil
We recognize that the ongoing rebound of groundwater levels in response to recent reductions in abstraction could potentially mobilize pollutants from old landfills and other contaminated land sites in low-lying areas. We are now able to identify the higher risk sites and help target appropriate remediation to protect both land and groundwater quality.
Wiser, sustainable use of natural resources
We have established the importance of maintaining the delicate balance between abstraction from the aquifer and replenishment of it by recharge through the low permeability glacial clay deposits that cover much of the area. Using the Catchment Abstraction Management (see Whiteman et al. 2012a) process, we can influence the distribution of future groundwater abstraction; we have worked closely with the local water company, United Utilities, the most significant stakeholder, during the study and are now encouraging them to optimize their use of the available groundwater resources within the Mersey Basin and North Merseyside area as part of their Water Resource Plan.
These groundwater resources are seen to be of strategic value within United Utilities integrated water supply zone, especially given the need for sustainability reductions, as an outcome of the European Union Habitats Directive ‘review of consents’ process, from some of their more environmentally sensitive surface supplies in the Lake District, North West England.
Limiting and adapting to climate change
A key project outcome is a numerical model that allows us to assess the significance of future changes in recharge to the aquifer for any number of abstraction patterns/scenarios. The potential of effective conjunctive use of the Mersey Basin/North Merseyside Permo-Triassic sandstone aquifer with other water sources can be investigated.
Reducing flood risk
Given the Environment Agency's wider remit under the UK Government's flooding strategy ‘Making Space for Water’, groundwater flooding is now very much in focus. The study has put us in a much stronger position to forecast the extent, timescales and susceptibility of low-lying areas to groundwater re-emergence at surface as a result of rebounding water levels in response to reduced abstraction. We have also identified potential problems such as changes in the rainfall/runoff characteristics of some of our river catchments, and sewer surcharging, which may alter future catchment responses to major surface water flood events caused by higher water tables in flood plains.
A key recommendation from the study is the importance of raising awareness of the issues and risk associated with groundwater rebound with the public and other stakeholders. We have also identified the need for further targeted monitoring and investigation in susceptible areas. These actions are now being incorporated into Lower Mersey Flood Risk Management Plan.
In addition to the contributions to the Environment Agency's corporate strategy, the findings of the study have informed and been fed directly into the work carried out under the European Union Water Framework Directive (see Whiteman et al. 2012a). The study has been fundamental in assessing the risk to this groundwater body from over-abstraction and saline intrusion as well as classifying its status as poor. Further, the study has been used as a basis for developing appropriate programmes of measures within the River Basin Management Plan to tackle the poor status. Again, we are able to target our future work to manage and protect our valuable groundwater resources for future generations.
Keith Seymour and Simon Gebbett, 29th July 2008