Global threats such as climate change, increasing urbanisation, and rapid population growth will continue to pose major challenges for the water sector over the coming decades. Questions over supply, delivery and demand, all form a central part of this argument with the themes of sustainability and resilience often included in the response. Recent events, along with reactive changes to national legislation and policy, have resulted in a need for the notion of resilience to develop from a theoretical concept to a tangible operational method. This commentary discusses barriers to the operationalisation of resilience in the water sector of England and Wales. The current privatised governance structure of the water sector is first discussed before the three main barriers to operationalisation—lack of agreed definition, metrics and the measuring of resilience—and the need to further acknowledge the ‘socio’ in socio-technical systems, are further explored. A deeper understanding of the notion of resilience in the context of the water sector, and how it can be successfully and effectively applied and implemented at an operational level, are crucial if the sector is to manage and respond to the aforementioned global challenges.
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