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Engineering a Better World | Water grid

water grid map2

Drummond Modley, Wessex Water’s programme manager outlines the sustainability benefits of a new water supply grid installed across three counties in the South West.

Since the start of AMP5 in 2010, Wessex Water has developed its integrated water supply grid to improve resilience, and ensure reliable supply is maintained. This will provide for emergencies, and after the output from some borehole sources has been reduced, to improve river ecology.

The new grid crosses three counties; Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire, and will provide resilience to 1.3M customers. The project provides a secure, resilient piece of infrastructure which will allow water to be moved around the area to where it is required, responding to any difficulties with supply in the local areas.

This major piece of civil engineering infrastructure in the West Country covers a large area, and as a result crosses many sensitive and highly protected environments and communities. Such a broad project has impacts on many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation. Provision of resilient, good quality supply is a core focus of the Global Goals.

SDG 15 – Life on Land. The laying of pipelines will always disrupt the ecological habitats it crosses. In the West Country this includes many hedgerows and farm lands. By incorporating sustainability as a key focus of the project Wessex Water have made sure to always leave a net positive biodiversity impact. They have also been working with farmers to provide nectar rich grass lands, bird boxes and improve hedgerow management.

wessex water grid map

wessex water grid map

SDG 17 – Partnership for the goals. This goal focuses heavily on working with communities and stakeholders, and appropriate funding for projects. Wessex Water have taken time and care to engage the communities the trunk main interacts with, and respond to their concerns. It even went further to provide small grants to communities to engage them in ecologically significant activities.

SDG7 – Clean Energy. The provision of the new integrated water supply grid will enable a better, more efficient management of water supply. As many of the pipelines have been designed to be bi-directional there will be the benefit from renewable energy to support some operational sites. This will reduce the reliance on fossil based fuels.

SDG 13 - Climate Action. The primary focus of this project is to provide resilience of supply for Wessex Water customers. One of the key issues it addresses is climate change.

WATER GRID flow chart sdg

WATER GRID flow chart sdg

New Civil Engineer asked Modley just how the ICE can support engineers in achieving the UN SDGs: “The ICE can do an awful lot, and indeed it does… It is about a state of mind… you want people to have a more common view about their responsibility as an engineer, as part of an important Institution, to look after the environment. It is one of the key codes of conduct in the Institution that all members have to sign up to, and a very important one at that.

“Engineers have a key part to play in making sure that our society is as sustainable as it can practicably be.”

What more can the ICE do?

Get the word out. “Through the use of digital media and webinars, through celebrating the success of new projects that have adopted the principles of sustainability,” says Modley. “Getting it out to as wide an audience as possible, both professional and lay people, and especially schools… that is the generation we have to target.

“It needs to broadcast and celebrate success, and make it a positive thing to go for sustainability. The future is; to get what you need done by building less. Engineers in the future will not build as much as people have in the past.”

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