Working together to achieve sustainable water management

Working together to achieve sustainable water management

ADA and the Association of SuDS Authorities (ASA) have very similar overall goals to promote, champion and campaign for the sustainable delivery of water level management and drainage systems. They both offer guidance, advice, support and training to their public authority members across the United Kingdom, and inform the public, industry, decision, and policy makers about their work.

ASA and ADA have worked together for several years now, with ADA providing administrative services to ASA over that time. ASA and ADA’s opinion has evolved towards the direction of bringing both associations together to operate as a single business, but to maintain the identities of what they represent.

Both Associations are starting to set out the next steps for how they intend to engage and inform our respective members about progress along this journey. Our aim is to achieve a more influential, joined-up, business efficient entity that can represent a broader cohort of public authorities focused on managing flood risk, water levels, and sustainable drainage systems.

The Benefits of Closer Collaboration

A joint Association will be able to leverage greater political and strategic influence on future policy and the efficiencies to be achieved through operating on a single business platform.

Working together in partnership is key to effective flood and water management. This joining together of our associations would do just that with local authorities, internal drainage boards, national agencies such as the Environment Agency, and regional flood & coastal committees all being members of a single Association. It would make it easier for us to engage with the relevant government departments, politicians, and other key stakeholders and in turn they would know that there is one place they need to come for information about our water management sector.

A more influential joint Association should also attract greater funding support through increased contributions for projects from Government, increased advertising revenue, a broader base of associate members, and a greater scope to attract revenue from events.

Members would directly benefit from a wider offering from the joint Association, giving them greater access to a broader spectrum of knowledge and advice at no significant extra cost.

The Potential Risks

Our members manage risk. Consequently it is only right that we identify and consider those risks that potentially could affect progress of our coming together.

We hope that in explaining what we think are the benefits, opposition to the merger will be minimal. We will therefore be taking the time over the coming 12 months to widely consult on our plans at their various stages of development and we will seek feedback from you as members.

There is a risk that the implementation of Schedule 3 of the Flood & Water Management Act 2010 does not happen, is delayed or, conversely, is implemented in 2024 as intended by Government as it stands today. Schedule 3 introduces a new duty on upper-tier local authorities to approve, inspect, adopt, and maintain sustainable drainage systems which meet new mandatory standards, and also removes the automatic right for developers to connect to public sewers. As sustainable drainage systems are ASA’s core business, there is a risk that ASA’s resources would need to be intensely focussed on supporting members as and when implementation of this legislation happens. Should this coincide with our ongoing progress to align our Associations, this could result in a delay to or prolonging of the merger process. If Schedule 3 is not implemented or delayed, then ASA’s current approach and expertise in delivery of sustainable drainage systems through the planning process will continue.

Members might also worry about a watering down of the services we can provide in the future, or the attention afforded to their particular interests. We will need to ensure that our resources are adequate enough to meet those needs. Both Associations in their current forms could always do more for their members and we think that in combining forces, we will have greater ability to do that. We are also mindful of ensuring that we provide adequate space for groups of members to decide and define their respective needs and policies within a joint Association’s constitution and structure.

Our plans will be based on certain levels of income, primarily from membership fees and advertising revenue. A joint association will have a broader base for these income streams, increasing resilience to sudden shocks. However, there is always a risk that circumstances may occur where either membership and/or advertising income reduces for a period of time. A key mitigation here will be to diversify to as many forms of income as we can. Sharing resources and membership can help us to deliver a greater variety of events, projects, sponsorship opportunities, etc.

And finally, we are only as good as the staff we have and the loss of key employees is a risk to the smooth functioning of a joint Association. We will need to identify business-critical functions and have contingency plans in place to deal with that.

Timescales and Next Steps

ASA and ADA officers have drawn up a timeline to work to, which culminates in us bringing a full proposal to our respective AGMs in late 2024. A small Executive group from both associations has been formed to work on the proposals and we will keep you fully informed of progress being made. As always, if you have any comments on the information we will be sharing with you in the coming months, please do get directly in touch with ASA or ADA officers.