Ian Hope is the new technical manager for the Environment Agency's reservoir safety team. Bernadette Redfern finds out how he is coping with the challenge.
The 2003 Water Act made the Environment Agency responsible for ensuring the safety of all reservoirs over 25,000m 3.Unchecked, leaks, overtopping, slippage or erosion of embankments could lead to potentially lethal dam wall breaches.
Currently 200 local authorities are charged under the 1975 Reservoirs Act with enforcing inspection and maintenance of the 1,900 registered reservoirs in England and Wales. But in October the Agency will take over.
The man in charge of the transfer is former head of flood defence policy and process Ian Hope. Hope joined the Agency in 1998 with over 20 years water industry experience under his belt, first as an engineer at Anglian Water, later as project manager for clean water with South West Water Services.
A fellow of both the ICE and the Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM), Hope talks with passion about his new role: 'I'm like a trainspotter who gets to drive the trains, ' he says.
Enforcing the Reservoirs Act involves close liaison with reservoir 'undertakers' - operators and owners. To do this the Agency is building up a central database. 'There isn't a single national register at the moment so we have to build one by gathering all the records kept by local authorities, ' says Hope.
The Agency must also ensure that the undertaker has appointed a supervising engineer, and ensure there are regular inspections at least every 10 years.
If an undertaker does not comply with the Reservoirs Act, the Agency will issue warnings and cautions, and will ultimately prosecute if remedial steps are not taken. It can commission essential works to ensure safety.
Hope says the Agency's work is starting with the accumulation of existing information and an overhaul of how this information is stored. 'The fulcrum of our strategy will be an automatic system.' A single electronic register will be kept, and 'we will automatically issue notifications informing undertakers that an inspection is due and issue warnings if we don't receive certificates of inspection'.
What is more, from April 2005 a flood plan must be drawn up for each reservoir examining the potential impact of a flood, detailing an onsite emergency strategy and, depending on the scale of the potential damage, providing an offsite emergency plan. Getting this initiative off the ground calls for more staff, says Hope. 'We are definitely looking to recruit people to work in the new team.'
So what will Hope do once the new strategies are up and running? 'There will be a consolidation period for the new reservoir inspection system, so I have no immediate plans to move on, ' he says. He also has an MA in leadership, culture management and business planning on the go and wants to get his dissertation written.
However, a recent Agency contract in Malta has whet his appetite for foreign travel. 'I would like to do some more work abroad, ' he grins.
Ian Hope will present a paper at the British Dam Society conference in June, entitled: Reservoirs Act 1975 - progress on the implementation of the Agency as enforcement authority.
For more information on the strategy and recruitment go to www. environment-agency. gov. uk
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