Research report on intangible assets of GWS sector published

A joint scoping report by DCU Water Institute and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) on the topic of evaluating intangible assets, services and their associated benefits in the group water scheme sector has been published today.

The report was commissioned by the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) earlier this year in an effort to ascertain how best to holistically establish the true value of the GWS sector from a social, community and environmental perspective.

The report’s executive summary explains:

"The natural environment and how it functions is often best understood by local communities who are involved in its day-to-day management and preservation. This is particularly the case for Ireland's 380 privately sourced Group Water Schemes (GWS) which are embedded in communities nationally and serve the water needs of over 200,000 people. Whilst anecdotal evidence exists describing the co-benefits of GWS, to date no systematic examination has been undertaken.

"Systems thinking approaches are useful to understand complex issues and provide a shared whole system view, allowing us to see the ‘big picture’, understand dependencies, consider different perspectives and ensure all components of the system work together to achieve the objectives as a whole. Using a systems thinking design, our report therefore has two aims; (i) to identify key tangible and intangible assets and benefits, and (ii) to provide an overview on how they could be evaluated within the GWS sector.

"Drawing on a range of methods, including stakeholder workshops, interviews and a detailed questionnaire, this research has demonstrated that the role of that the role of GWS is not merely to provide potable water to communities nationally. GWS are highly complex systems and provide multiple tangible and intangible benefits beyond their core function that have, until now, not been fully captured. Exploring the human-natural system in its entirety is challenging, but crucial, which this research demonstrates.

"The research illustrates how the full and wide-reaching impacts of GWS propagate throughout multiple systems, impacting both humans, their health and wellbeing and the natural environment. Furthermore, it demonstrates how strong governance arrangements focused on inclusive engagement and participation form an essential component of a service run by and for local communities. Such effective models of community engagement around environmental management are rare in an Irish context. These models are an example of best practice and should be supported and encouraged, particularly if we are to enhance human wellbeing and achieve ambitious national climate and environmental commitments."

Reacting to the publication of the report, NFGWS CEO, Barry Deane, said:

This report highlights the broad value of the community-owned group water scheme sector and its unique place within rural Ireland. Hopefully this will inspire further research and create greater awareness of the social and environmental contribution of the sector.

I’d like to thank the researchers for their diligence and dedication in preparing the report. I know they also share in my words of appreciation to all those who participated in the research element of the exercise.

The full research report can be read on the NFGWS website here.