Water to Spare and Potentially Use

Posted: Monday 3rd September 2012

If you need water you may be already sitting on it.

Clean Rivers Trust anticipates that the new Water White Paper that will go before Parliament shortly will pave the way for more sustainable competition within the UK water industry. This should be helpful to manufacturing industry and other high volume water users; the water companies are already preparing for what they hope will be busy times to come by setting up joint venture companies or alliances between themselves and major infrastructure providers.

In the 1990s the Trust worked with several of the major water companies to ascertain the volumes of water that may be available to major water users across the whole of the UK: further we worked on similar schemes in France, Spain, Austria and Poland. Further the research undertaken; which due to political issues did not come to fruition at the time in Cyprus showed an abundance of what is considered a scarce resource on the island.

In the UK there is far greater water resource than is admitted by government; the scarcity of water early on in 2012 has raised awareness of the issue of vulnerability of water reserves; the understanding that there can be shortages, but that is of water at the price that the population are accepting as of a standard. This is on the whole the ‘easy’ water; there is talk of desalination, indeed Thames Water has commissioned such a plant on the Thames Estuary. The cost of such water though will ensure that it is used only when necessary. The Channel Island of Jersey supplies its population for the off peak season by traditional water gathering and collection means; in the tourist season desalination comes into play. It is not the panacea that the media and government talk it up to be. Water in the UK is cheep, compared to the investments that are needed to be put in place to safeguard the environment and ensure that the mains supply pipes do not run dry.

Across the country there are resources that are there, minewater, quarry water, rising water tables under cities such as Birmingham, Nottingham and London. Transport for London has so much that they have to pump it to waste to stop the London Underground network from being inundated.

All these waters are at present consider problematic, either through contamination or other uncertainty of water quality, issues of possible ownership and the charging of royalty fees. The Trust has carried out projects for several private companies where high water demand has been satisfied from such sources in several areas of the Country; the Forest of Dean, West Cumbria, Nottinghamshire and the South West. All have proved viable and in each case pay back has been achieve within 2.5 years at the latest.

The Trust has considered historic national reports on water supply that demonstrate water resources that ceased operation over 100 years ago but are still viable, and environmentally sustainable. In our library there are records of several thousand supplies that are not used at present and most could be brought back into economic use. Incidentally these waters are often available close to current major water customers of the water companies. There has in the past been a studied aversion to these resources by the incumbent water companies but with the approach of proper competition this will need to change.

The several of the wells and spas of the UK, Germany, France and Austria have available supplies and have been investigated twice over the last twenty years for major food and drinks manufacturers; two sites have since become sites of production. Specialist waters are also important economically as well as pure volume.

The access points to water are numbered in their many thousand, some production bore holes, others monitoring or ventilation shafts. There are records of several thousands of wells both shallow and deep. The volumetric amounts can appear remarkable but give some conservative idea of what is available to benefit the development of competition and aid industry.

Three sites alone are able to supply 100,000 cubic metres per day; the water is easier to treat for use for supply to the surrounding area than that used at present. One site in the South West of England, one in North West Kent and one in the North East of England. In Scotland there are supplies available of similar volumes. In the Midlands and Yorkshire there are some further sites that can also supply 100,000 cubic metres per day.

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