Defra provided start-up funding to catchment partnership hosts of £1.6 million in the 2013/14 financial year and a further £2.2 million in 2014/15. Some of this funding was allocated to a national support group of representatives from the organisations that are hosting catchment partnerships to develop further guidance and support tools. This has included developing a ‘knowledge hub’ to help hosts share existing good practice around securing external funding. Defra continues to support this process through our ongoing evaluation of the catchment based approach to help guide partnerships further. The evaluation will also help to establish whether becoming fully self-sustaining partnerships remains a viable ambition. Catchment partnerships are able to draw in funding through other sectors and organisations. No decision has yet been made about future Defra funding for catchment partnerships.
In parallel, Defra continues to encourage water companies to play an active role in catchment partnerships. In our Strategic Policy Steer to OFWAT, we stipulated that it should provide a regulatory framework which enables water companies to consider funding catchment schemes where they are more cost effective than end-of-pipe treatment solutions. Defra’s ongoing evaluation shows that water companies are working closely with all catchment partnerships. As a result, we anticipate that there will be more catchment investment in water companies’ future business plans under the current Price Review process.