New reservoirs ‘critical to future prosperity’

As East Anglia grapples with prolonged water shortages – and faced with ever increasing demand – proposals are underway for two new reservoirs.

Anglian Water has earmarked one reservoir for the Fens in partnership with Cambridge Water, and the other will be located in Lincolnshire.

The project has been in development over the last decade, and the water companies will share the findings of a detailed site study in the autumn, the first in a multi-phase consultation on the proposals.

This summer’s heatwave keenly illustrates the need for investment in more water storage, while climate change, environmental concerns and population growth are increasing demand 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.

The projects are part of the companies’ long-term Water Resources Management Plans, linked to wider regional plans led by Water Resources East. The 25-year plans aim to make the region more resilient to drought and improve environmental protection.

Alex Plant, Director of Strategy and Regulation for Anglian Water said: “It’s plain to see when you look out the window right now just how precious water is.

“It’s the lifeblood of the region for our customers, businesses, agriculture and nature. The current situation presents an obvious backdrop as to why projects like this are needed, but the 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.

“Getting these projects underway now means the chances of our taps running dry are significantly reduced, as well as helping us take a big step forward in protecting the environment by reducing how much we take from elsewhere in the region.

“The reality is stark for the East of England. 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 – last year alone delivering five years’ worth of leakage reduction in a single year. These reservoirs will build on these demand reduction measures and play a critical role in securing water supply long into the future.

“But we should be clear – while all of these projects cumulatively will help to keep taps running, they are necessary because the demand for water will greatly outstrip the available supply unless we take action now, which is why we still all need to do our bit to use less.”

Hannah Stanley-Jones, Head of Future Resources Strategy for Anglian Water, added: “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.

“Although we’ve recognised the need for and have already been planning these projects for a number of years, they are still at an early stage, as it’s a long and detailed planning process.

“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, of Water Resources East, said: “Both the Fens and Lincolnshire Reservoirs are critical to the region’s future prosperity and environmental health as the changing climate makes existing water resources less reliable. Eastern England needs to make the most of the rain that does fall in our river catchments, the driest part of the country. That means significantly more water storage is urgently needed.

“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. And there is a real appetite and ambition amongst local partners to make this happen.”

Anglian Water is contacting all landowners and residents who may be impacted by the proposals, and a 10-week public consultation will follow.

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