Blog Post: Saturday September 01, 2018

Waterwise is a teenager!

I can’t believe it was 13 years ago when Jacob, Melanie and I opened the doors to Waterwise on 1st September 2005, but yes, Waterwise has become a teenager!

It was an exciting thing to happen. In the spring of 2005 Jacob was working at Water UK, and I was Special Adviser to Margaret Beckett, then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  Jacob and Pamela Taylor, Water UK’s Chief Exec, invited me in to talk about an independent water efficiency body they were thinking of setting up, with water industry support. I thought it was a great idea and went back to Defra to discuss it with Ministers, eventually putting a commitment to support such a body into the Labour Party’s rural manifesto at the May 2005 general election.

I’d worked for Margaret Beckett for 11 years, and after working that election, my third, I handed in my notice as a Special Adviser and took the summer off to spend time with my toddler and consider my next steps.

Jacob rang me and asked whether I was interested in founding Waterwise with him. Before then I hadn’t even thought of being involved myself, but I said yes straight away. I remember coming back from holiday extremely sunburnt and going into London for a Jacob-style interview where I didn’t get to say much but left even more enthused. Jacob had sorted the funding, and the rest is history.

I’m really proud of the Waterwise we and subsequent teams have built. We’re acknowledged as the independent UK experts in water efficiency and have played a key role in lots of successes. Remember the capex bias? People laughed at us when we first suggested it was a problem for water efficiency – and then it became a standard discussion point and was comprehensively addressed by Ofwat (though a cultural one remains in places). We were the first to make the links between water and energy efficiency. And our 2017 Water Efficiency Strategy for the UK has really influenced governments and others – with the UK Government making a raft of commitments to water efficiency in its 25 Year Environment Plan this year. Water efficiency is far more mainstream than it was, and is getting tons bigger and better – but there’s so much more to do in terms of ambition and scope, and Waterwise is still buzzing with energy, with new team members and lots of opportunities.

When we started Waterwise, there was talk in government of imposing a water efficiency target. It’s interesting that 13 years later that’s exactly what’s coming in the autumn for England!

It’s been an amazing 13 years – I spent 4 of them in Ofwat, but still on the Waterwise Board – and I’m proud to be Waterwise’s MD. From that first day in the basement of Water UK, with broken chairs and trying to work out what a ‘brand’ was, to a teenage Waterwise still firing on all cylinders! Thanks to those of you who’ve supported us along the way, and here’s to the next 13 years.


Nicci Russell

Waterwise Managing Director