In the midst of the driest eight-month period since 1976, and with the East of England only seeing a fifth of its average rainfall in July, long-term plans for two new reservoirs that will secure the region’s water supplies for future generations are continuing to progress.
Anglian Water is developing proposals for one new reservoir in the Fens and will see Anglian joining forces with Cambridge Water, the other will be located in Lincolnshire – with one potential site located on fenland between rural villages to the south of Sleaford.
Plans for the project have been developing over the last 10 years with the water companies ready to share the findings of a detailed site selection study in the autumn, in what will be the first of a multi-phase consultation on the proposals.
The news comes at a time when public awareness of water scarcity has never been higher. This summer’s heatwave is keenly illustrating the need for investment in more water storage, while a changing climate, the need to protect the environment and population growth are combining to increase demands on water resources in a way that is felt more keenly in the East of England than any other part of the UK.
The two new reservoirs could supply enough water for at least 750,000 homes, as well as protecting the environment by allowing Anglian to reduce the amount of water taken from rivers and underground aquifers elsewhere in the region.
These projects form part of the company’s long term Water Resources Management Plans, and are linked to the wider regional plans led by Water Resources East. These plans look 25 years ahead, with the objective of making the region resilient to drought, all while improving environmental protection.
For Anglian Water, the company says they will build on decades of existing investment in resilient infrastructure – like its 400km strategic pipeline plan allowing it to move water from the north to the south and east of the region - helping customers to reduce demand and driving down leakage to lower levels than their fellow water companies.
The first pipeline is well underway, with pipes currently being laid from north Lincolnshire down to Grantham and then on to East Anglia in a later phase.
All of this has meant that, despite recently being declared as a region ‘in drought’ last week, the company is one of only a few not imposing a hosepipe ban this year, despite operating in the driest region of the UK
Alex Plant, Director of Strategy and Regulation for Anglian Water said: “Tthe reality is because we’ve known the future promises many more people, but far fewer raindrops, we have been working on these projects for years, as we know how long they take to come to fruition.
“We operate in the driest part of the country and receive a third less rainfall than anywhere else in the UK, but we’re also one of the fastest growing regions, with 175,000 new homes to be built in the next five years. Without action we will face a water deficit of millions of litres a day within the next five years – let alone 25 years.
“Right now, we’re already working on new strategic pipelines to move water from wetter to drier parts of our region, installing over a million smart meters in customers’ homes to help them better understand their water use, and driving down leakage to world leading low levels. These reservoirs will build on these demand reduction measures.”
Together with a panel of expert partners, Anglian Water has been undertaking a wide range of assessments to identify potential locations for the reservoirs.
Hannah Stanley-Jones, Head of Future Resources Strategy for Anglian Water said: “These new reservoirs will supply drinking water, but they bring much wider opportunities. We plan to provide new places for people to visit and enjoy, economic investment for communities, and homes for wildlife. We have seen what a positive contribution our existing water parks can bring for the people living and working near them. We want to create the same with these new reservoirs.
“We’re at a very early stage in the planning process and have been carrying out detailed technical work to help identify the best locations for the proposed reservoirs. We plan to share where we have reached with this work in the Autumn when we will be launching the first phase of consultation on our proposals.
“This will include the proposed locations, and our assessment of what we will need to do to deliver them responsibly by minimising any impacts on the environment and local communities. This will provide the opportunity for local people to feed back before we develop our plans further. We anticipate this will be the first of three phases of consultation.2
Construction of the new reservoirs could begin by 2030 with the hope that they would start supplying water to customer taps by the mid to late 2030s.
Daniel Johns, Managing Director, Water Resources East and chairman of the South Lincs Water Partnership and Fens Water Partnership, said: “What’s particularly exciting about these two reservoir projects is the huge potential for both to deliver much wider benefits for agriculture, for local communities and the regional economy.”
Ahead of sharing the detailed work that has been undertaken to assess the best locations for reservoirs, Anglian Water will soon be contacting all landowners and residents who may be impacted. A ten-week public consultation will follow for people to review the proposals and provide comments.
There will be multiple opportunities over the coming years for people to feed back as the proposals continue to take shape.
More information is available at: www.anglianwater.co.uk/new-reservoirs.