Water Shortages Arise from a Failure to Do Strategic Planning – They Are Not an Excuse Not to Do It

NAO 25th March

Tackling water resource issues is one of the five priority risks the Committee on climate Change identified in its 2017 climate change risk assessment. If more concerted action is not taken now, parts of the south and south-east of England will run out of water within the next 20 years. 

This will of course lead to ever more Coronanimby moaning that we don’t have the resources to build the houses we need.  Or as bad that we should force people to move to places where they will be rained on more and be greatful for it.

We have absolutely no shortage of water in the UK.  Rather we let most of it flow into the sea without being used.  Most countries have long ago solved the technical problem of getting water from where it is to where it is needed.  Some solutions date back to the origins of civilisation.

In the era of privitisation there was a reaction against large scale interegional water transfer solutions as ‘white elephants’ such as Kielder or expanding transfers from Wales to the Midlands.  With no separation of wholesale and retail markets there was no incentive for bold long term cross basin improvements.  The government has intermittently called for a National Water Strategy, rather like CaMKox expecting everyone but the National Government to write it.

We don’t need a fully singing and dancing national water grid to make progress.  Small scale interegional and new reservoir programmes are going  ahead.  Already in Essex in hot summers Essex gets around 1/3rd of its water from the Great Ouse Catchment.

A single pipeline from Derwent Mouth/Long Horse Bridge on the Derwent/Leicestershire Border to the Farmoor Reservoir, and the proposed reservoir at Abingdon, a distance a little over 120km, and mostly on the 150m contour line, would link the catchments of most of the rivers in middle England and completely solev the water supply situation for Camkox. Existing rivers like the Great Ouse, and gravity, allow water to flow where growth needs it.   Lets call it the Long Horse Waterway.   Boris previously stated support for the idea without stating where or how.  I would expose the Southern section south of the Nene as a Canal and use it as a major flood relief and recreational resource linking pleasure boats from the Great Ouse, Avon Thames and Nene systems.  Why doesnt England’s Economic Heartland fund a feasibility study?

So why are we not getting such proposals from the  wholesale water companies?

I remember reading a couple of years ago Anglian Waters strategic plan.  It was a brilliant piece of work with sophisticated GIS modelling of supply and demand.  But it was completely wrong.  Wrong because it only included growth in local plans, and not most of the growth in the capital planning period which wasn’t yet in local plans .   There’s the rub of it.  Non existent strategic planners not telling actually existing water planners where to put the pipes and reservoirs.

Historically England has been bad at Water Cycle planning.  It rains so much we take it for granted.  In arid countries all planning begins and ends with where it rains and gravity.  In my recent mini ‘lecture’ tour i threw in the deliberately provocative point that all 5 New Towns in Hertfordshire./est Essex were in the wrong place, and the Ministry of Works had advised Lewis Silkin that feeding 5 new towns into the always limited capacity Rye Meads treatment centre was impractical.  If we had listed we would have now 5 new Towns feeding into the Ouse Catchment in south Cambridgeshire (and we might again).

The Long Horse Superpipe