England’s water shortage: The 15 big water supply projects being taken forward

Parts of England are projected to hit water shortages within the next few years and the Environment Agency has warned it is unable to guarantee future water supplies without extra funds. Here’s what you need to know about the water sector’s plans to avert a crisis by creating new reservoirs, reusing effluent and transferring water between catchments.

Photograph: Tim Hill / Pixabay Photograph: Tim Hill / Pixabay

Ofwat has given the greenlight for water companies to continue to investigate the following 15 potential solutions to England’s dwindling water supplies. But some areas of the country are already classed as water-stressed and the following projects will take many years before they come online.

Abingdon Reservoir

A joint project by Thames Water and Affinity Water, the reservoir being considered would interact with other projects such as the river Severn to river Thames transfer. The whole development would create a capacity of 294Ml/d of drinking water.

London effluent reuse

Thames Water is considering reusing effluent as drinking water from Beckton, Mogden and Teddington. It would provide 250Ml/d. 

River Severn to river Thames transfer

Thames Water, Severn Trent Water and United Utilities are considering the transfer of water from the lower reaches of the river Severn to the river Thames via a pipeline or restored canal to provide 180Ml/d.

Thames Water to Southern Water transfer

The two water firms are looking at moving water from the Thames Water area into the Southern Water area either using existing sources or by developing new ones to provide 100Ml/d.

Grand Union Canal transfer

A transfer from the Midlands to the south-east using the canal network is being investigated by Severn Trent Water and Affinity Water in partnership with the Canal and Rivers Trust, providing 100Ml/d.

READ MORE: Countdown to Day Zero: what will happen when London runs out of water?

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READ MORE: High and Dry: Is the UK prepared for growing pressure on its water supply?

READ MORE: Who’s abstracting England? 

South Lincolnshire reservoir

Anglian Water and Affinity Water’s proposed reservoir would have the potential to transfer water to Affinity’s area in the south east. It could provide 100Ml/d.

Anglian Water to Affinity Water transfer

Water would be transferred from Grafham reservoir to Affinity Water supported by the development of the South Lincolnshire reservoir. It could give Affinity Water’s customers around 100Ml/d.

Thames Water to Affinity Water transfer

This transfer could also provide Affinity’s customers with 100Ml/d.

Fawley desalination plant

Southern Water is considering three different sizes of desalination plant, converting sea water into drinking water with a potential capacity of 75Ml/d.

River Itchen effluent reuse

Southern Water is also considering transferring effluent upstream of the tidal limit, to boost flows and enable it to extract more water. This could provide 90Ml/d.

Vyrnwy reservoir

United Utilities wants to transfer water within its region to enable releases from the reservoir to support river Severn to river Thames transfer, providing 180Ml/d.

Minworth effluent release

Severn Water and Affinity Water are working together to look at options to provide treated effluent for discharge into the river Avon to support the river Severn to river Thames transfer, or into the Grand Union Canal transfer. This could provide 115Ml/d.

West Country south sources and transfers

A joint project between South West Water, Wessex Water and Southern Water is considering developing new sources from effluent reuse and additional pumped storage to increase the amount of water available for transfer to Southern Water. They are looking at providing 65Ml/d. 

West Country north sources and transfers

Bristol Water, Wessex Water and Southern Water are planning to develop a second Cheddar reservoir and pipeline to Wessex Water as well as reinforcing the Wessex Water network to maximise a transfer from Bristol Water at Newton Meadows, and link to Southern Water to provide 21Ml/d.

West Country Southern Water transfer

A joint project between South West Water, Wessex Water and Southern Water would see water moved from the Bournemouth area to Southern Water, using sources from both South West Water and Wessex, potentially providing 15Ml/d.


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