Back in January, I believed that 2020 would be something of a turning point for our environment.

We were all becoming more global aware and the door to tackle our climate ambition, reduce our carbon footprint and protect nature was open wider than ever before.

It’s something of an understatement to say that the world as we knew it at the start of the year has now changed.

The past few weeks have been unlike many of us have ever known within living memory.

At first glance, it may seem that our environment has taken a backseat during this crisis as the attention of government has now, quite rightly, turned to saving lives from the global pandemic.

And yet, we are still here supporting our communities.

The Environment Agency ethos has always been focused on protecting lives, livelihoods and the environment.

Our commitment to this does not change while dealing with the effects of coronavirus. At our heart, we are a Category 1 Incident Responder under the Civil Contingencies Act. This means we operate 24/7 to respond to flooding and other environmental incidents.

Right now, this also includes maintaining our existing flood defences and the critical work on schemes currently under construction.

Our staff and contractors across the country are working hard to ensure the vital pieces of our flood resilient jigsaw can reach their completion.

Crucially, they are doing this in a way that does not put anyone involved at risk and in clear coordination with government guidelines on social distancing.

It’s a new way of getting the job done but for the moment, it is working.

While of course we always need to prioritise our activity, we remain fully operational and ready to support both you and our local landscape if needed.

We have also taken steps to ensure we are, as ever, incident ready.

Like many of you, I have found one bit of brightness to come out of the current dark spell is the glorious weather and the chance to appreciate our gardens, balconies or widow boxes, if we are lucky enough to have them.

It would be more than fair to say that the tail-end of 2019 and start of 2020 brought enough wet weather to Cheshire so seeing some sunshine is a welcome relief for all of us!

But, we all know the old saying that too much of a good thing can be bad for you and low amounts of rainfall over a prolonged period can bring its own problems for the environment.

At the moment, our water resources seem to be coping but we are taking significant notice of our region’s rivers and other water supplies.

We have to be prepared should the dry weather spell continue, and we are.

Winsford Guardian:

You can also play your part by looking at the way you use water in your home and making sure you are being as efficient as possible. Just something to consider when next using the garden hose!

There is no doubt in my mind that the challenges facing all of us now and over the coming weeks and months are unprecedented and require all of us to work together and do what we can to support each other’s’ efforts.

It is heartening to see this partnership approach in action across Cheshire. We are standing together with the emergency services, local councils and other partners in Local Resilience Forums to help coordinate support to the vulnerable. Our response is ranging from helping chemical companies produce chemicals for cleaning, to ensuring the safe disposal of clinical waste and sharing our incident management expertise with others involved in the national response to coronavirus. We also continue our work regulating the most hazardous industrial sites like oil refineries and nuclear power stations and supporting waste companies and farmers to ensure that they can operate safely without posing a threat to people or the environment.

And of course, our teams continue to undertake investigations into waste crime and prepare legal cases against those who think they can pollute and get away with it.

On the face of it, the current crisis does not lend itself to a positive narrative. But, as many of you will know after reading my thoughts each month in these columns, I am a firm believer in the silver linings.

And we are seeing them, even now.

Across the world, watercourses are running clearer and levels of air pollutants and warming gases over some cities and regions are showing significant drops. We are also seeing a stronger appreciation of our emergency services and a spirit of resilience as communities come together to protect our vulnerable members of society.

One thing we know from our experience of incidents is that to get through to the other side, we need partnership, compassion, determination and patience.

In the meantime, rest assured that your local Environment Agency teams are still here for you, working hard for the mid and long term to protect the environment and support the communities we serve.

Until next month, stay safe.