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Your View | Living with water shortages


 Congratulations on your “Where’s the water” feature (New Civil Engineer last month). Especially interesting is the research by University of Twente showing that 4bn people “live with water scarcity for at least one month every year”. But “living with water scarcity” is a vague phrase. For example, does it relate to domestic needs (around 150 litres per person per day in the UK, mostly returned after use); or to the 3,000 to 4,000 litres per person per day consumed by evapotranspiration in the process of growing food? 

At least there is recognition that water resources are dominated by seasonality. Nature commonly gives us water in the wet season but little or none in the dry season, making dry-season supply heavily dependent on storage even in normal years; and even more so in time of drought. And yet, at global level, all our major storages are under some kind of threat.

Of course timescales are case-specific and will vary greatly. But at global level, it looks as if the needs are going to increase while the storage to meet them diminishes. There are problems enough already. So just where is the dry-season water going to come from to grow enough food in the decades ahead?

  • David Evans (M)

 New reservoirs in the Thames catchment

I was fascinated to read that the UK has been slow to wake up to the growing water resource problem and that the government has asked the industry to develop a national resources long term planning framework. I seem to remember that a Water Resources Act was passed more than half a century ago to achieve this very purpose.

Of course it was not new in 1963. To some extent the conclusions reached confirmed those of Bateman in the previous century: that the resources needed by South East England and London in particular had their origins in Wales. But after listing and reviewing all possibilities of storage and transfer and pointing the way to their optimum national deployment, it was also demonstrated that conversion of reservoirs to river regulation and the transfer of water in rivers could greatly enhance the yield of some existing resources.

The main objection to the Abingdon reservoir proposal was that constructing expensive new storage to be filled from the overworked rivers of south-east England, including the Thames, was throwing customers’ money down the drain. The evidence of costs and yields to the presented to the public inquiry into the scheme made this obvious to anyone who had their doubts, but there is still talk of new storage on the Thames. 

  • Barry Rydz (F), 6 Kingsdown House, Kingsdown, Corsham, Wilts SN13 8AX

 Streamlining professional qualifications

IIn response to Owen Wonorg (Letters last month), the professional review process is designed to allow candidates to demonstrate their capability at the level that they have prepared and requested the review for. Based on the evidence submitted and the candidate’s performance on the day, the reviewers decide whether the candidate has adequately demonstrated the necessary attributes for the specific grade to which they applied.

 The ICE considered the possibility of awarding IEng to unsuccessful CEng candidates during the route simplification process in 2015, but concluded that to do so is inappropriate. The candidate will have used their judgement to provide evidence and planned to demonstrate that they meet the criteria for a specific grade, so reviewers cannot change the scope of the review.

 Attributes for each grade are detailed on the ICE website and both membership development officers and sponsors are available to guide candidates.

  •  Susan Clements (M), head of qualifications, ICE, 1 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA

High Speed exports



Taiwan high speed: British expertise

LJS Lesley asked why any other country would want to buy high speed rail railways from the UK. Well maybe not the hardware but the export of high speed rail expertise is already well established. Many British railway engineers and consultants were employed on the 345km Taiwan High Speed Rail (300km/h) project between 1999 and 2006. A few of them later moved on to even larger rail projects in China, USA and Australia. 

  • Michael Baxter (M), 82 Sittingbourne Road, Maidstone ME14 5HY

We need more equal pay facts

 It seems that New Civil Engineer is quite prepared to set hares running without any proper justification.

I would suggest that there is no inequality in pay or opportunities for engineers of the same experience and ability within our profession. Looking briefly through the Careers section within the latest edition of New Civil Engineer there is not a single instance where there is any indication that different salaries are being offered to men and women. I cannot in fact remember an instance when I have ever seen a position advertised where the salaries for men and women are different.

Let’s get real and accept that there is no inequality in the treatment of men and women, with equal abilities and experience in the industry.

  • Derek Godfrey (F),

 Tell us something new please

Selection of a combination of established practice and existing equipment as described by R&W on its M5 bridge foundation refurbishment contract is not being innovative (New Civil Engineer last month).

We’ve been pitching sheet piles into slit trenches for years and attaching an off the shelf pile driver to an excavator is nothing new. True the contractor has solved a couple of tricky problems but he’s not done anything that hasn’t been done before.

I know that there’s a temptation to puff things up, but if contractors believe that this sort is thing is innovation then that goes a long way to explaining why Britain’s infrastructure delivery costs are higher than our competitors.

  • Mark Dauncey (M),

Editor’s note: Differences of opinion of what is genuine innovation aside, for us it was simply great to hear from an small to medium sized firm proud of its work and keen to share it with the wider world. More of them please!

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