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Transforming how water is managed in Greater Manchester

Posted: 06/07/23

A new plan will see the Greater Manchester Combined Authority extend partnership working with United Utilities and the Environment Agency to transform the way water is managed across the city-region so it is better prepared for the changing climate.

The scale of the challenge of managing too much water in times of flooding, too little water during droughts and cases of poorer quality water due to pollution, are all continuing to grow.

During periods of extremely dry weather (as experienced in 2021 and 2022), water supplies in Greater Manchester come under increasing pressure. In storms, and with the city-region sitting in a natural bowl, heavy rainfall can see water levels rise rapidly, causing flood risk.

Precipitation is predicted to rise by 59 per cent by 2050 even if carbon reduction targets are met, with the North West projected to have the highest percentage increase in rainfall in the country. As rainwater enters the sewer network this can cause water pollution.

To combat this, in September 2021 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Environment Agency, and United Utilities, creating the first partnership looking to manage water differently across the city region.

The vision is: “By working together, we will manage Greater Manchester’s water wherever it falls, to enhance the environment, support people and forge prosperous places”.

The Integrated Water Management Plan has been developed by this partnership, working with others across the city-region and it will help to:

  • Accelerate the implementation of natural flood management interventions in key locations identified in the Integrated Water Management Plan. This will help to reduce carbon emissions, improve resilience to climate change and will benefit nature, conditions for people and the quality of towns and cities
  • Reduce the operation of storm overflows so we can prevent rainwater from entering and polluting the combined sewage system and improve water quality
  • Creating new jobs, developing skills and apprenticeship roles that benefit residents in Greater Manchester
  • Ensure new GMCA or TfGM developments are delivered in partnership with United Utilities so water management measures can be factored in. For example, road or cycle schemes can include solutions to address surface water runoff

Members approved the Integrated Water Management Plan at a Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting on Friday 30 June 2023. Read it in full here: Integrated Water Management Plan (

Moving forward, the partnership will also look to with the government, regulator Ofwat and other industry representatives to provide solutions that will deliver real change.

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