Communicating research to influence water pollution policy

Client: University of Exeter

Bulletin worked with Prof Richard Brazier from the University of Exeter to disseminate the results of his research into the effectiveness of land restoration in preventing diffuse water pollution.

Diffuse water pollution constitutes a major threat to the ecology of lakes, rivers and coastal water in the UK, compromising the quality of groundwater and driving up the cost of delivering a safe water supply. Research by the University of Exeter’s Professor Richard Brazier into the effectiveness of landscape restoration programmes in Exmoor and Dartmoor is designed to help land managers improve water and soil quality – as well as reduce the risks of flooding.

Prof Brazier needed help in conveying his message to national policymakers that landscape restoration can only be successful if its effects on the whole ecosystem are analysed. And he was keen to stress that his research could be applied to the study of the efficacy of other landscape restoration schemes right across the UK. Bulletin attended a workshop organised by Exeter’s Research & Knowledge Transfer team that brought together academics, policymakers, industry and environmental organisations to discuss the challenges around landscape restoration and its impact on water quality.

As well as networking with participants on the day, we wrote and designed a report of the debate for distribution to all attendees and those key decision makers that were unable to attend. We then drew up an engagement strategy to raise awareness of the research among government policymakers.

The report encapsulated the key benefits of the holistic approach to landscape restoration advocated by Prof Brazier and set out the issues that must be addressed collectively in both the short and long term.

We identified the ongoing government consultations in this policy area to which Exeter could contribute its expertise. And we worked to set up meetings between Prof Brazier and UK politicians to inform the policy debate around how effective landscape restoration programmes can improve water and soil quality, and reduce flooding. This led to Ben Bradshaw MP citing Prof Brazier’s research in an adjournment debate in Westminster on the flooding in the South West – the video is here, fast forward to 09:41.07 – and calling on the Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Dan Rogerson MP to take note. He recommended the Select Committee to call on Prof Brazier to give evidence. On the back of high profile media coverage on the BBC, we are working with Exeter to encourage policymakers to act on the research findings.

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