The City Water Debate


Thursday 21 March 2024 5.30 for 6.00pm
Bakers’ Hall, Harp Lane, London EC3R 6DP

The whole water sector is facing a rising tide of issues relating to governance and long-term financing (which were the basis of two previous City Water Debates). On one item there is agreement: however governed, major spending will be necessary in water infrastructure over the next 25 years. Historically, much investment has been in traditional physical engineering solutions involving treatment plants, pipelines and flood defences, many of which come with a high carbon footprint. However, increasingly, it is recognised that a nature-based approach involving joint working between a range of parties, is required, which will doubtless come with its own challenges.

 The purpose of this event, which will be conducted under Chatham House rules, is

  1. to consider the scope for a different, less carbon-intensive and more environmentally sustainable nature-based approach for managing future water sector needs, and
  2. given that this will require joint working by many partners, what are the best models for financing and delivering such solutions – how will we make it happen?

To discuss this we welcome the following speakers:

Rt Hon Ruth Kelly PC (Chair, Water UK)

Richard Bramley (Chair, Environment Forum, National Farmers’ Union)

Mark Lloyd (Chief Executive, The Rivers Trust)

Bart Schoonbaert (Associate Director, Arup)

Peter Simpson (Chief Executive, Anglian Water)

The event commences at 5.30pm for 6.00pm. After the speakers’ presentations, there will be a Q&A/discussion session.  A reception will follow from 7.45 to 9.00pm.

Admission is by named ticket and places are limited. The event is free and by individual invitation only on a first come first served basis. Email Christine Duthie, Clerk, The Company of Water Conservators (

Speaker biographies

 Rt Hon Ruth Kelly PC

Ruth was Member of Parliament for Bolton West from 1997 to 2010 and served in the UK Cabinet for four years. Since then she has held senior corporate and academic positions. She is currently Chair of Thames Freeport and a Director of Heathrow Airport; advises the Vatican on its financial portfolio; and is Senior Fellow at the Policy Exchange think tank.

 Richard Bramley

Richard is an arable farmer with a strong environmental focus including managed habitat, trickle irrigation, cover-and-catch crops and hedgerow and tree planting. Situated alongside the River Ouse in Yorkshire, his farm has seen an increased amount of flooding in recent years and improving soil health is a current priority. He is the current Chair of the NFU Environment Forum and sits on the Net Zero steering group. He also leads in a local initiative ‘Sustainable Landscapes’.

 Mark Lloyd

Mark is the Chief Executive of The Rivers Trust, which is the umbrella body for 63 Rivers Trusts throughout the UK and Ireland. He was previously CEO of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal and started his career setting up Thames21, a very successful Rivers Trust in London. He’s been passionate about protecting and restoring rivers for his whole life.

 Bart Schoonbaert

Bart Schoonbaert is an Associate Director – Water Advisory in Arup with a focus on policy, regulation and governance nationally and internationally. Prior to this he was Director for Environment, Public Value and Governance in Ofwat.

Peter Simpson

Peter has been CEO at Anglian Water since 2013 and is a Chartered Water and Environmental Manager, a Chartered Scientist and a Chartered Environmentalist. As a founding member, and co-Chair of the UK Corporate Leaders Group, he has championed business action on climate change and environmental issues over many years.


The City Water Debate is part of an ongoing contribution to the future of the water sector. It was initiated by the ‘WET 10’ Group of City Livery Companies in 2008 and is organised by the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators. It generally takes place annually on the eve of World Water Day; the March 2023 Debate focussed on governance of the water sector and highlighted the key issues of sector financing and the need for an effective catchment approach; a further Debate in November 2023 focussed on water and its financing.

The Debates are part of a larger programme of related events organised by the Water Conservators which includes: webinars, the one on Moorland Restoration on 15 February being particularly relevant to the current debate; and discussion dinners, the next being with Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (Company members only) on 28 February. The Company regularly responds to relevant Government consultations and recently submitted a ‘think piece’ to DEFRA specifically on Management of Catchments – all of which are available on the Company website. For more information on the above please contact the Clerk, Christine Duthie (address above) or any member of the Company.