The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators is a modern livery company, incorporated by Royal Charter in 2005, whose mission is ‘promoting a diverse and sustainable environment’. Our members include senior current or retired individuals from the water and environmental sector, finance, consultancy, government and academia, as well as a growing cohort of younger associates – all of whom share our commitment to the long-term health of water and the environment.

We seek to play our full part in the wider livery movement with a particular focus on:

  • developing the skills of younger members of our sector
  • convening civilised debate on water and environmental matters
  • contributing to the environmental policies and aspirations of the wider livery movement.

1      Developing skills

Education is a key objective of our charity, the Water Conservation Trust. We identified a particular need for financial support for postgraduate study in water and environmental sciences in the UK. Based on this we run a targeted programme of bursaries and dissertation support grants at Oxford, Cambridge and a dozen other leading UK universities. Since the programme commenced in 2008 we have provided bursary support to 180 students, many of whom would not otherwise have been able to undertake their post-graduate studies. In addition 75 students have been given dissertation awards.

Linked to this the Company has a vibrant programme for our Associate members, who are typically in higher education and/or the early stage of their careers, which offers networking and career development events (virtual and physical) as well as the opportunity of mentoring.

Our charity also has an extensive schools programme to encourage water-related science and environmental learning in younger age groups (including among children from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or with special needs). This has encompassed funding projects such as school ponds, microscopes, rainwater harvesting for growing areas and furnishing STEM facilities. We also offer bursaries to encourage educational visits to the Museum of Water and Steam at Kew and to Spitalfields City Farm near Whitechapel. Through our regional network we are working with some 20 primary schools on the River Holme connections project in West Yorkshire as well as with various schools in Wales.

2      Convening debate

Given the breadth of our membership we are well aware of the wide range of views on water and environmental matters (and indeed of the sometimes polarised public discourse in parts of the media). We are concerned to convene serious fact-based debate on these vitally important issues.

With this in mind, we run a monthly webinar programme, open to all who are interested, on specific environmental topics. Recent webinars have ranged from Nick Higham on his history of the London water supply, ‘The Mercenary River’, through to Oxford Professor Jim Hall and the National Infrastructure Commission on ‘preparing for a drier future’.

Speakers at our dinners in 2022/3 included Lord Deben (John Gummer), Chair of the Climate Change Committee, who provided great encouragement to us in our endeavour, and Rebecca Pow, Minister for Water. Our showcase event is the annual City Water Debate, now in its fifteenth year, held on the eve of World Water Day. This year a panel of five leading experts (Professor Sir Dieter Helm, the Chairs of the Environment Agency, of the Office of Water Regulation and of Anglian Water, plus the Chief Executive of British Water) debated whether current governance of the water sector is fit for purpose.

3   City of London environmental policies

As the world’s greatest City, London is uniquely well placed to lead by example on environmental and climate change policies and this is recognised as a particular opportunity for the livery movement as a whole. The Water Conservators have contributed fully to the work of the Livery Climate Action Group, co-ordinated by Alderman Alison Gowman, to support the City Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy. We were the first Livery Company to produce a Climate Action Plan and have led the production of guidance notes on water and wastewater usage. We also worked with “Heart of the City” on helping Livery companies to calculate their carbon footprint