Aecom proposal could bring water supplies from Scotland to thirsty South East.
Division over the merits of a UK water grid resurfaced this week after consultant Aecom revealed that the government was considering its radical proposal for a £14bn canal from the Southern Uplands of Scotland to London.
Aecom’s ambitious proposal is currently on the desks of ministers at a host of government departments.
These include the Treasury, Department for Transport and Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs after being passed on by the government’s chief scientific advisor David MacKay.
MacKay has asked his colleagues to respond to the proposal which Aecom sustainability consultant David Weight believes is the best way to transfer water from Scotland where it is in abundance to the South East of England where it is most needed.
He said he hoped the ambitious project will be funded by utility companies and other stakeholders, including local authorities who could raise funds from property owners and businesses benefiting from having the canal nearby. He said he was now seeking funding to further develop the idea.
“The problem is funding the work to get to a point where we have enough information to allow people to invest,” said Weight.
“We hope it will build up its own momentum.”
The outline proposal lists six principal economic benefits arising from building the canal.
As well as transporting water it could be a route for electricity and telecommunications cables, and for district heating. It could also help tourism and regeneration.
Weight said the proposal would be “relatively economic” as the chosen route follows a contour that runs from the Scottish Borders to the South East.
The route was originally proposed in the 1940s as the Pownall Grand Tour canal.
Aecom’s report says water would not need to be pumped along the canal, but says a “few locks” would be needed to facilitate level changes, for crossings and to help manage water levels.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) said the proposal may have value.
“There needs to be a feasibility study to consider the options for a water grid,” said Ceca external affairs director Alisdair Reisner. “We would be supportive of any effort to create efficient infrastructure assets.”
The ICE disagreed. “We have said that we do not support the construction of a national water grid or long distance transfers of water,” said ICE water panel chair Michael Norton.
“We are promoting two things: that water companies should have more interconnections and that there should be more storage of water,” he added.
Norton added that it could prove difficult to secure funding for the canal scheme from so many stakeholders.