Sewage Scenarios

The #SewageScandal (in the UK) is both entirely predictable and entirely unavoidable given the status quo. It’s the inevitable conclusion of the current scenario we are moving toward. Let me explain: A couple of years ago I was hired to empirically create long-term scenarios for water management in Southeast England, paid for by Southern Water plc. These were evidence-based exploratory scenarios created in tandem with land-use and hydrological modelling.

I was asked to make them anthropological rather than just ecological or water focussed, so they took into consideration economic and political evidence of future possibilities. I basically spent 2019/20 analyzing evidence and speaking to people across the water sector. Rather than taking the #superforecasting approach, which suffers heavily from being a top-down perspective both in terms of what it forecasts and what it suggests appropriate responses are, I took an orientation approach. This is about defining key orientations that water and its management could move in.

Even based on the limited horizons that employees at Southern Water and other organisations affiliated with Medway Catchment Partnership shared, they showed quite clearly that the very existence of a private water company as an infrastructural institution is deigned to lead to the sewage issues seen of late.  It’s basically a foregone conclusion that what drives such an institution will lead to this kind of outcome.

In the meantime I thought I would share these future orientations in the form of two images, so you can see the horizons for water in southeast England over the coming decade. They are based on a review of the evidence, modelling and expert stakeholder interviews. The first image is a functional description of the processes involved in each orientation. The second is a photomontage of each orientation.

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