Diffuse urban pollution of water is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving compliance with the Water Framework Directive. As with many other environmental issues, complexity, subtlety and lack of ownership underlie the difficulties in resolving the problems. Technical complexity is due to the multiplicity of pollutants, sources and pathways, while there is also complexity of governance due to the many organisations and regulatory instruments. The subtlety is because many of the effects are chronic rather than acute and so the environmental effects are often not obvious. And the lack of ownership reflects both the causers of pollution (potentially all people and all urban infrastructure) and the multiplicity of agencies with responsibilities for some parts of the network of sources, pathways and receptors.

At Water & Environment 2011: CIWEM's Annual Conference, David Lerner, Director of Catchment Science Centre at University of Sheffield, will provide a review of the technical and governance issues of diffuse urban pollution, reporting on current understanding and the essential gaps in knowledge. In particular, he will discuss whether such a complex problem can be successfully addressed on national and local scales by the “Big Society” concept currently favoured by the Government. He will also be asking how changes in behaviours can be delivered in a complex urban environment and society, and if it is feasible for householders to take on board the messages amongst all the other pressures on their lives.

Water & Environment 2011: CIWEM’s Annual Conference will focus on the Big Society and aims to provide a comprehensive response to the Government’s Programme.  The event takes place on 6th and 7th April 2011 and will include a mix of keynote speakers, offered papers, exhibitions and networking opportunities that will make this the key event for water and environment professionals.

Richard Benyon MP, Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, and Tony Juniper, environmentalist and former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth are just two of the confirmed keynote speakers to give their response to the Government’s programme. For more information, go to

‘Can the Big Society reduce diffuse urban pollution?’ will be presented by David Lerner on 6th April 2011.

Sponsors for the event to date include Halcrow, Hydro International, MWH, YSI Hydrodata and exhibitors to date include Polypipe, Maltby Land Surveys, Mott MacDonald, Wiley-Blackwell.

Source: The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)

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