Canals may hold key to drought relief

BRITAIN'S canals could help drought-sticken regions by carrying fresh water to them at up to one-tenth of the cost of building pipelines, canal operators said yesterday.

British Waterways, which runs the nation's 2,000-mile canal network, says capital costs of installing pumps for uphill stretches and building by-passes to avoid working locks and bridges would still run to hundreds of millions of pounds. But operating costs for a network that relied largely on gravity to shift water could be as little as one-seventh of those for a pipeline grid.

A canal grid should also take only five years to implement, rather than 20. Canals already carry about 236 million gallons a day to customers, of which almost two-thirds enters the public water supply via six water companies.

British Waterways estimates that a proposed initial phase could supply an extra 80 million gallons per day to the dry southern and eastern parts of the UK from the wetter North-west. This is a 50 per cent increase on current supplies, and includes an estimated 20 million gallons a day to regions around the river Great Ouse and river Nene - the entire daily demand of those areas.

But Ian Valder, British Waterways' commercial director, warned: 'This is not going to solve the drought problem of the South, it is only part of helping to solve that.'

The first-phase plans for a 162- mile route starting by pumping water into canals north of Stoke- on-Trent in the Midlands, using gravity downhill to Tamworth then pumping up to Braunston near Rugby and down again into rivers near Milton Keynes and Oxford. 'Canals form a link between all these catchments, but where water would not flow naturally,' John Taylor, the water development manager, said yesterday.

British Waterways' directors are seeking consultants to conduct a study into how such a scheme might work. The main missing link is where the extra water would come from. The most likely sources are the mid-Cambrian area, the Kielder reservoir in Northumberland and the river Trent in central England.

It is also unclear who would pay for the cost of upgrading the canal links. Mr Taylor said British Waterways already faced a bill of pounds 68m for a backlog of engineering projects, but added that the privatised water companies were keen to buy more water transported in that way. Some may want to build extra reservoirs to store emergency water, others might decide to turn to the canals as an instantaneous top-up.

The plan aims to preserve the traditional image of Britain's canals as both freight carriers and tranquil waterways for fishing and other leisure pursuits.

Pushing more water through canals dredged to make them deeper, but not wider, would lead to a better environment for today's canal customers, British Waterways argued yesterday.

The organisation also said it would consider possible environmental effects carefully, using submersible pumps that sat below ground.

Mr Taylor said he had already discussed possible water sources for the canal grid scheme with the National Rivers Authority, which is reviewing Britain's water resources and how best to develop them.

Options being considered include expensive schemes for de- salination of sea water, supply from France by pipeline or ship, and extensions of existing water- transfer schemes between rivers. The authority anticipates publishing an interim document on its plans by the end of this year, and a full report by the end of 1993.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003