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Letters: Focus on the issues not a few leaking pipes

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A water drop causing a ripple on the surface reflecting a slightly cloudy sky

It is good that the ICE has produced a positive report to address the UK’s water problems. However, I suspect it is no more than a sticking plaster when major surgery is required.

It is not so much a potential shortage of water, as this year’s rainfall figures demonstrate, but one of collection and distribution.

The 23 water companies in England and Wales (Scotland has the one authority) do not have the will, resources or cohesion to face this challenge. They are commercially driven and have an obligation to protect their shareholders.

Does the report seriously expect the water companies “to come together in an integrated overarching water strategy” or for neighbouring companies to share water?

The report goes on to dismiss a water grid, when this is patently the most positive way forward. Another misconception quoted was that transferring water is not feasible. Why not?

As B Walton says, it is perfectly viable. An example among many is the Thirlmere to Manchester 145km gravity link. The solution lies in a drastic political decision. Either scrap or amalgamate the water companies in the UK and establish one National Water Management Authority.

  • David Birtwistle (F), 6 Rutland Close, Garstang, Preston PR3 1DY

I was surprised to see NCE use the ­illustration of what is obviously a burst water main to illustrate the letter referring to water leakage (NCE 12 July). One expects such sensationalism from the popular press not from a technical journal. As any water based member will be aware, burst mains are not “leaks” and are usually repaired very quickly as they are obvious, often inconvenient and affect the supply to the customer.

Other leaks from pipes in the system are a different matter and are often very small (and as such often uneconomic to repair) and they can also be difficult to locate and are sometimes in very sensitive areas.

I am not sure a major main road closure to repair a leak of say one hour is going to be either cost effective or popular with the public if it were known.

On the positive side perhaps it should be pointed out that such water leaking into the ground will in many instances help towards aquifer recharge. So perhaps all the hype surrounding leaking pipes is more of a political issue rather than a major problem.

John Beck (M Retd), johnbeck29@btinternet.com


Invest a little to save a lot on our road network

The article by Alexandra Wynne [on the Boston Manor viaduct] (NCE 12 July) clearly describes the deterioration in yet another 50 year old structure serving a vital strategic highway.Like the Hammersmith Flyover on the same road this discovery again presses home the need for regular and in-depth condition surveys and structural assessments.

While the faults discovered on the two structures are completely different, the effects of structural failure would be worryingly similar.

It is unfortunate that the timing coincides so closely with the opening of the Olympic Games Lanes, but due no doubt to the magnificent efforts of our specialist contractors, both structures are back in operation on time.

Regular assessments of these structures can only increase the understanding of their condition and allow budgets and contingency plans to be set and agreed.

While the cost of carrying out these assessments is relatively modest, the cost of ignoring the issue could be incalculable.

This will not be the last such discovery. Our roads network is getting older. Our structures are subject to increasing and sustained loadings and the effects of road salts and climate. The need for strict survey and maintenance regimes to keep our ageing assets serviceable has never been greater.

Tony Rimoldi (F), chief executive, Concrete Repairs, Cathite Mitcham, Surrey

Apprentices can lead us forward

“Comment” by Antony Oliver (NCE 5 July) mentions providing clients with best possible value and the role of the engineer.

Value management, sometimes called value engineering, is a process that should be a requirement for all UK construction/building projects by incorporating it in the associated contracts (NCE 17 May).

Historically, the cost of the process can typically add 0.5% to 1% to the project cost but the potential project savings can be within the range of 5% to 20%.

The investment is patently justifiable.

The process has the greatest potential to increase function and reduce life-cycle costs in the concept phase but its application spans through all subsequent phases.

The project team, including the client, must participate in the process. The process is effective when a broad cross-section of skills are assigned. Too often university graduates are assumed to be exclusive custodians of good ideas.

My experience indicates individuals with an appropriate trade background can be equally rich with ideas. As someone who underwent a career defining five-year engineering apprenticeship in the 1950s the current government’s initiative to create a new era of apprenticeships will, I believe, help to raise awareness of the increasing role for capable trades people in future project teams.

Professor Albert Hamilton (F), 10 Baskerfield Grove, Woughton-on-the-Green. Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK6 3EN
profession

Olympics will do industry credit

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The special report on the Olympics (NCE 12 July) makes for interesting and upbeat reading. It is an antidote to the droll and catastrophic scenarios presented in the BBC mockumentary programme “Twenty Twelve” of which I am an ardent fan.

Perhaps the reality lies somewhere between the two but I would not wish to belittle the very commendable achievements which have considerably boosted the image of civil engineering.

John Haiste (F), Bristol, johnhaiste@aol.com

M4 fiasco makes us all look bad

The front page of New Civil Engineer (NCE 12 July) shows the same picture as featured on the TV news: traffic coming off the M4 before the affected flyover in only one lane.

Yet the slip road they are entering has two lanes. Even if there is an explanation for it, it just looks bad and is another black mark for our profession.

John Botterill, 3 Parbury Rise, Chessington, KT9 2ER


Nuclear will keep the lights on

It is disappointing that the NCE editor chose a nuclear critic to comment on the report into
the Fukushima accident (NCE 12 July).

A more relevant opinion would have come from a specialist in power supply and who, like Dr Weightman, had visited the site and studied the event.

Dr Weightman’s focus was on the implications for our new nuclear build which is generally in good standing.

The future is either nuclear power or candles. I would prefer nuclear.

Robert Freer (F),rfreer.dulwich @virgin.net

 

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