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Implementing Pollution Source Control—Learning from the Innovation Process in English and Welsh Water Companies


Improving the stimulation and management of innovation by water utilities is a key mechanism through which the challenges of securing sustainable water and wastewater services will be achieved. This paper describes the process of adopting source control interventions (SCIs) by water and sewerage companies (WaSCs) in England and Wales. SCIs can be defined as efforts by water suppliers to control agricultural pollution where it arises. To investigate differences in the extent to which SCIs have and are being adopted across all ten WaSCs in England and Wales, Rogers’ five stage innovation model is used to structure and interpret results from a series of semi-structured interviews with raw water quality and catchment management personnel. Results suggest that to promote SCI innovation by WaSCs, regulation should be designed in two interdependent ways. First, regulation must generate awareness of a performance gap so as to set an agenda for change and initiate innovation. This can be achieved either through direct regulation or regulation which raises the awareness of an organisations performance gap, for example through additional monitoring. Simultaneously, regulation needs to create possibilities for implementation of innovation through enabling WaSCs to utilise SCIs where appropriate. Evidence from the research suggests that appropriate intermediary organisations can assist in this process by providing a resource of relevant and local knowledge and data. Future research should seek to characterise the factors affecting each stage in the WaSC innovation process both to confirm the conclusions of this study and to reveal more detail about various influences on innovation outcomes.

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England catchment sensitive farming delivery initiative


Department for food and rural affairs


Dissolved organic carbon


Drinking water inspectorate


European Union


Environment agency


Non Governmental Organisation


Office for water sciences


Raw water quality


Source control Intervention


Water and sewerage companies


Water framework directive


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The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the EC funded ISBP project (NEST-PATHFINDER-CUL 043199, Integrated Systems and the Boundary Problem), the kind co-operation of all the interviewees. Furthermore, the authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviews for their valuable comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Marc Spiller.

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Spiller, M., McIntosh, B.S., Seaton, R.A.F. et al. Implementing Pollution Source Control—Learning from the Innovation Process in English and Welsh Water Companies. Water Resour Manage 27, 75–94 (2013).

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  • Innovation
  • Pollution source control
  • Water framework directive
  • Water utilities
  • Catchment management
  • Co-operative agreements