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Government urged to head off Olympic water shortage

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GOVERNMENT MUST take the lead in developing new water resources in England and Wales if a water shortage during the 2012 Olympics is to be avoided, the ICE warned this week.

'The Environment Agency has responsibility for resources overall. It has carried out studies in the past, in 1994 and 2001, but these focussed entirely on demand management and leakage control rather than new resources, ' ICE Water Board chair John Lawson told NCE.

'It is time for the Agency to re-look at it. What would happen if there was a 1 in 50 year drought coinciding with the 2012 Olympics?

'The next time the Agency reviews the situation there needs to be a much stronger focus on new resources, ' he warned.

But the Agency rejected the claims and said that new resources were included in its last strategy and would be the subject of a discussion paper to be published later this year.

'It is disappointing as the ICE has obviously not read the last strategy in 2001, ' said Agency head of water resources Ian Barker.

'We identified the need for demand management and did say that new resource development was required. It is very much a twin track approach, ' 'We do push demand management hard but that is because previously water companies have paid very little attention to it, ' he added.

'There are eight new or enlarged reservoirs proposed across the south east. We will look at the proposals, take an overview and publish a discussion on it later this year. It will be a think piece to get the debate going, ' he said (see feature page 20).

The Agency has also been asked by the Department for the Environment Food & Rural Affairs to review the feasibility of a national water grid (NCE 30 March).

Barker hinted that it was unlikely such a major piece of infrastructure would ever be built. 'It is technically feasible but it just isn't sustainable. It has a massive energy impact, ' he said.

The ICE agreed that building new piped infrastructure would be prohibitively expensive but said that the Agency should consider moving water along rivers.

'The most cost effective way to move water is to expand the Craig Goch reservoir in mid Wales and then transfer water to the south east along the Severn and the Wye, ' said Lawson.

'There would be environmental issues to consider though', he added.

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