Telling the story of water for the Environment Agency

River in AmblesideOne of my favourite projects in 2020, this was a real joy to do. The Environment Agency (where I’m on a framework contract for writers) wanted an in-depth narrative about the history of water in England. There isn’t much the Environment Agency doesn’t know about the current state of our waters, whether around our coast or in our rivers, streams and lakes. But the aim of this project was to provide a bank of information and narrative about how our waters have come to be as they are, after centuries of alterations from the Romans to the modern day. This involved researching the history of water and water management in England, as well as its role and impact on our history, productivity, society and culture, for example as a key factor influencing the success of the Industrial Revolution.

The brief was to write an engaging narrative, including nuggets of facts and figures that would pique interest in non-expert audiences. A significant element of the work was deciding which aspects of history and geography to include, how to weave them together with the management of – and policy on – water, and how to bring it all into one cohesive narrative.

I worked with a Senior Policy Advisor and the organisation’s Evidence team to ensure that the content was meticulously sourced and referenced, and put together four sections of copy (totalling 20,000 words) dealing with separate eras of water. Along the way, I learned about cholera, Florence Nightingale, London’s lost and buried rivers (including the Fleet, which has a particularly colourful history), fish passes, canals, Bristol’s heyday as a flourishing port, the restoration of the Mersey and a whole plethora of other fascinating topics. According to my family, I found it all so interesting that I’m in danger of becoming a water bore.

The COVID-19 lockdown put a slight cramp in our style for this project, but I was still delighted with the end result. Niall Jones, Senior Policy Advisor at the Environment Agency, said

“Cecilia managed to weave together a fascinating narrative around the history of water in England and the social and economic benefits this natural resource continues to provide. She has a great ability to pick out the best material and evidence to convey an engaging and informative core story aligned to key communication objectives – all achieved during a time of mass upheaval for us all.”


Photo by Ian Cylkowski on Unsplash