Swathes of countryside to be flooded to prepare for climate change: Water firms unveil plans to build three vast reservoirs that can hold as much as 100,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools to stop taps running dry
- Water firms are unveiling plans to build vast reservoirs and use canals to transfer supplies
- Biggest is set to be in Oxfordshire, south of Abingdon, which would serve London and Midlands
- Scheme for desalination plant to treat sea water on the south coast is also being considered
- Comes amid forecasters of hotter, drier summers with associated droughts and wetter winters
Water companies in England are planning to build three major new reservoirs with a total capacity of 100,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools as well as using canals to transfer supplies in response to climate change.
The biggest of the three reservoirs is set to be located in Oxfordshire, south of Abingdon, which would serve London and the Midlands – while two other smaller sites will be in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.
The size of the Oxfordshire site has not been confirmed, but one of the original plans suggested it would cover the equivalent of 2,500 football pitches and contain enough water to fill 60,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
This would make for the biggest stretch of open water in southern England – and it would be about half the size of Windermere, sitting behind huge embankments, taller than electricity pylons.
It is not yet clear exactly buildings or land could be affected because the exact size has not yet been confirmed, but Thames Water has stated in a plan that a key risk area is to ‘produce a robust compulsory acquisition strategy’.
It said it must ‘ensure purchase of all property can be justified as being essential’. A compulsory purchase order would have to be authorised by the Secretary of State under the 1991 Water Industry and Water Resources acts.
Elsewhere, East Anglia would get a Fenland reservoir, created either to the east or west of the Ouse Washes, serving Cambridge and the surrounding areas, and with enough water to fill 20,000 Olympic-sized pools.
There would be another new reservoir in South Lincolnshire, which would store water sourced from the Witham and Trent rivers and again have enough to fill 20,000 Olympic-sized pools.
Schemes include a vast reservoir in Oxfordshire, south of Abingdon, which would serve the capital and Midlands. One of the original plans suggested it would cover the equivalent of 2,500 football pitches, making for the biggest stretch of open water in southern England. It would be half the size of Windermere and sit behind huge embankments, taller than electricity pylons
These two images show the landscape where the Oxfordshire reservoir is planned – which is currently mostly farmland
A visualisation of the Oxfordshire reservoir concept design is shown, looking west from Drayton and towards East Hanney
The proposed reservoir would be located in the Oxfordshire countryside and could be about half the size of Windermere
Another of the proposed new reservoirs is in South Lincolnshire, which would store water sourced from the River Witham and River Trent when river flows allow this. Water could be transferred to the reservoir either by a pipeline or an open water transfer – and local flows from the South Forty Foot Drain will also be incorporated into the design where possible
An artist’s impression of the South Lincolnshire reservoir and all the associated construction elements of the project
The Fenland reservoir in East Anglia would be created to the east or west of the Ouse Washes, serving Cambridge and the surrounding area. It is hoped it will contribute to future demand for water in the Anglian Water and Cambridge Water regions
The Cambridgeshire reservoir will also have a visitor centre and changes to woodland as part of the construction project
Water firms have unveiled plans to build vast reservoirs and use canals to transfer supplies in response to climate change – with Ofwat setting aside £500million to allow the companies explore 15 schemes to help maintain supplies in future decades
Meanwhile many water companies are also planning to step up the recycling of sewage water so it can be pumped back into the network to keep taps running in times of drought.
The situation is so serious that a scheme for a desalination plant to treat sea water on the south coast is also being considered – the sort of measure used by desert states.
How Britain has a series of ‘Atlantis towns’ hidden flooded to make way for reservoirs in 20th century
Britain has a series of ‘Atlantis towns’ hidden from view after they were flooded to make way for reservoirs in the early to mid 20th century.
Perhaps the most famous are the villages of Ashopton and Derwent under the Derwent Reservoir in Derbyshire, which were both flooded in 1943 despite huge protests from local residents.
A church, graveyard, cottages and a mansion house are all now underwater following a two-year flooding project, and some of the church pillars can still be seen today when water levels are very low.
The ruins of Derwent Hall in Derbyshire are exposed by low water levels in the reservoir on November 18, 2018
Another is Taf Fechan in South Wales, which is buried under a reservoir built in 1927 to ensure residents in nearby Merthyr Tydfil had clean water. Cottages, farms and a church were all abandoned and flooded, although the local graveyard was moved elsewhere.
A third is the North Wales village of Capel Celyn which was flooded in 1957 to provide Liverpool with a water supply – but only after protests from residents who demonstrated on the streets of the city.
The Taf Fechan reservoir in South Wales after a drought in 1976
Other English villages flooded in the 20th century include Mardale Green in Cumbria, West End in North Yorkshire and – most recently – Nether Hambleton in Rutland in 1976.
The moves comes against the background of climate change, which is predicted to create hotter, drier summers with associated droughts and wetter winters.
Figures out this week suggest the number of countries seeing temperatures above a scorching 50C (122F) is rising and the number of days when this figure is breached has almost doubled since 1980.
The industry regulator, Ofwat, has set aside £500million to allow water companies explore a series of schemes to help maintain supplies in future decades.
These are focused on capturing and storing more water during the winter and then creating grids, using canals and pipelines, to transfer supplies to areas at risk of drought.
Other major schemes include transferring water from the Severn to the Thames via the Grand Union Canal or a pipeline.
The canal would also be used to transfer water from treatment works in the Midlands to customers in Hertfordshire and London.
There are plans to improve the Vyrnwy Aqueduct, which takes a water supply from Lake Vyrnwy in North Wales, into England.
There are several schemes to transfer water between areas, such as the east Midlands and East Anglia; the Thames region to southern counties, such as Hampshire; and across the West Country and South West.
Thames Water is looking at a series of schemes to treat and reuse effluent gathered from sewage works.
The effluent would go through an Advanced Water Recycling Plant and then flushed into the Thames before later being abstracted from the river to be treated again and pumped into the drinking water system.
Southern Water is investigating the construction of a desalination plant on the shores of Southampton Water to remove salt from seawater, which Ofwat is considering backing despite concerns raised by environment campaigners.
The regulator said it is important to ‘encourage the water sector to find long-term solutions to make sure the taps can keep running in England and Wales’.
It added: ‘Changes to weather patterns because of climate change mean that rainfall distribution is becoming less predictable and consistent across the country.
‘The shift to hotter drier summers and warmer wetter winters will affect overall water availability. To help confront this, Ofwat provided almost £500million of funding for water companies to investigate and develop strategic solutions to this challenge.’
The programme is being overseen by a body called RAPID – the Regulators Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development – which includes Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate.
It is supported by the Consumer Council for Water, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.
RAPID managing director Paul Hickey said: ‘Making sure the water sector is prepared and planning for our changing climate is essential.
‘We have to find new and sustainable ways to keep the taps running. We will continue to collaborate to find the right solutions so the water sector delivers in the face of the climate emergency.’
It comes amid reports foud in ten young people fear having children in the future because of climate change.
There are several schemes to transfer water between areas of England, such as the east Midlands and East Anglia; the Thames region to southern counties, such as Hampshire; and across the West Country and South West
One of the water transfer schemes being planned in the series of new developments is an East Midlands to East Anglia project
They will use the Grand Union Canal to transfer water from treatment works in the Midlands to Hertfordshire and London
There are plans to improve the Vyrnwy Aqueduct, which takes a water supply from Lake Vyrnwy in North Wales, into England
This graphic shows the proposed water transfer scheme from the Thames region to southern counties, such as Hampshire
Another of the schemes to transfer water between areas comes in the above plan, across the West Country and South West
Water transfer plans have been unveiled for the South West, within the Wessex, Southern and South West Water region areas
A global survey of 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 found more than three quarters (77 per cent) thought the future was frightening. Nearly six in ten said they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ worried about climate change.
More than half said they had felt afraid, sad, anxious, powerless, helpless and/or guilty, and 45 per cent said their concerns affected their daily life negatively.
Less than a third think governments are doing enough to avoid catastrophe and – in the UK alone – 38 per cent are fearful of having children.
The University of Bath’s Dr Liz Marks, a co-leader of the study, described the findings as ‘shocking’.
‘Now is the time to face the truth, listen to young people, and take urgent action against climate change,’ she added. The study is under peer review for publication in the Lancet Planetary Health.
Youngsters fear climate crisis – and having children
Four in ten young people fear having children in the future because of climate change.
The global survey of 10,000 children and young people found more than three quarters (77 per cent) thought the future was frightening and nearly six in 10 said they were very or extremely worried about climate change.
More than half said they had felt afraid, sad, anxious, powerless, helpless and/or guilty, and almost half (45 per cent) said their concerns negatively affected their daily life.
Young people felt governments have failed them, betraying future generations, lying about the impacts of actions taken on climate change and dismissing people’s distress about the issue.
Less than a third (31 per cent) think governments are doing enough to avoid catastrophe, and almost two fifths (39 per cent) say they are even hesitant to have children. The figure for UK young people fearful of having children was 38 per cent.
The University of Bath’s Caroline Hickman, a co-leader of the study, said it pointed to a ‘horrific picture’ of widespread climate anxiety in children and young people and it suggested a link to government inaction.
She said: ‘This study paints a horrific picture of widespread climate anxiety in our children and young people. It suggests for the first time that high levels of psychological distress in youth is linked to government inaction.
‘Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments. What more do governments need to hear to take action.’
She added: ‘We’re not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children.
The study, which is under peer review for publication in the Lancet Planetary Health, collected data from 10,000 young people aged 16-25, online through research platform Kantar.
Respondents came from ten countries: the UK, Finland, France, Portugal, the US, Australia, Brazil, India, Nigeria and the Philippines.
The survey, developed by 11 international experts in psychology, child and adolescent mental health and climate anxiety, was conducted earlier this year.
It has been released as the UK prepares to host key global climate talks, Cop26, in Glasgow in November, at which leaders will be under pressure to up their action on curbing rising temperatures, against a backdrop of increasingly extreme weather conditions and stark warnings from scientists about inaction.
The UK findings, based on 1,000 youngsters, show 72 per cent finding the future is frightening, and 38 per cent saying they are hesitant to have children.
Around two thirds (65 per cent) of UK respondents believe the Government is failing young people, and only a third (32per cent) think it is acting in line with science.
Just a quarter (26 per cent) think the UK Government is doing enough to avoid catastrophe.
Dr Liz Marks, from the University of Bath and co-lead author on the study, said: ‘It’s shocking to hear how so many young people from around the world feel betrayed by those who are supposed to protect them.
‘Now is the time to face the truth, listen to young people, and take urgent action against climate change.’ Last month, the UN’s climate science body, the IPCC, issued a stark warning that humans were unequivocally driving climate change through actions such as burning fossil fuels, with impacts such as deadly heatwaves, fires, floods and storms already being felt.
It warned that without urgent and drastic action to cut emissions, climate extremes would continue to worsen.
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