Water company United Utilities has raised the prospect of transferring water from the north of the UK to the drought-hit south by suggesting a pipeline could be built alongside the route of the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway line.
“The current drought emphasises what we have known for some time - that there is more water available in the north than the south,” said United Utilities chief financial officer Russ Houlden. “A north-south pipeline could be built to address that.
“Typically the objections to such an idea have been build cost, operational cost, planning difficulties and environmental impact,” he added.
The company has estimated it would cost £2.6bn to build a pipeline to shadow the full route of the high speed rail route between London and the north of England.
However, ICE water panel chair Michael Norton said the estimate sounds low, and also pointed out that the operational costs for such a scheme would be very high.
“The energy cost to pump that distance would be astronomical,” he said. “People try to compare moving water with moving electricity or gas, but water is a heavy, incompressible liquid. Friction and head loss have to be overcome with pumps.”
Houlden said that, as the pipeline would only be used as an insurance policy in times of water shortage, the operational cost should be “manageable”.