Engineers this week questioned claims by the Environment Agency that a national water grid to transfer water from sparsely populated regions to the south east would be expensive to implement.
The Agency said last week that the infrastructure needed for a grid would cost up to £15bn, about four times more expensive than building new reservoirs in the south east. But chairman of the ICE water board John Lawson said that the idea had been dismissed on the basis of a 'desk-top study', which focused only on building five massive pipelines to pump 1,100Ml of water 560km from the northern Pennines to London. Lawson called on the Agency to look seriously at an alternative study of transferring water to London from reservoirs in mid-Wales. Such a scheme, he claimed, would be 'comparable' in cost to Thames Water's current proposal to build a new reservoir near Abingdon in Oxfordshire. 'The Environment Agency has very quickly dismissed the idea without doing a proper study. It needs looking at again,' Lawson said.Agency chief executive Paul Leinster said last week: 'We think water companies can meet future water demand over the next 25 years without the need for a national water grid.'However, Lawson's view was backed by the water companies. Thames Water claimed that the Agency's figures didn't stack up and Severn Trent insisted that a national water grid was technically feasible, affordable and environmentally responsible. 'We are already talking to others in the industry to find ways to overcome the environmental, energy and financial challenges that stand in the way of the development of a national system to transport water,' said a Severn Trent spokesman.Thames Water was this week due to unveil the results of a major study into an 'Upper Thames Reservoir' on land near Abingdon.