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Severn – Thames Water Transfer via the Cotswold Canals

A report from Cotswold Canals Trust Chief Executive Ken Burgin

The result of the public inquiry into Thames Water's water resources plan has been released. The reservoir proposal was rejected.

Reason for the Inquiry

Thames Water sought permission to build a new 100 million cubic metre, £1 billion reservoir near Abingdon to provide for the future water needs of the Swindon and Oxford area as well as London.

This was to the exclusion of other potential solutions such as water transfer from the Severn to the Thames. Cotswold Canals Trust Chief Executive Officer Ken Burgin attended the public inquiry in Oxford last summer.

Our Aim

Unlike some of the other organisations present the Trust's primary aim was not to stop the reservoir but to prove that a Severn – Thames water transfer scheme using the Cotswold Canals was potentially a much better, more flexible and lower cost option. 

Attractive Options Presented

Although Thames Water had eliminated such a scheme when considering their options, it became increasingly apparent that they had done so prematurely and with insufficient research. 

When their consulting engineers looked into it in preparation for the inquiry several interesting things came to light which had not be realised before.

This included a halving of energy costs if our canal were used, compared with the cost of laying a pipeline across the Cotswolds on a more northerly route.

In particular, the costs for the canal based scheme came out at about a third of that of the reservoir, even taking into account full restoration of the canal to navigation, and counting the current Phase 1A restoration investment that Thames Water would not have to find.

The Thames Water evaluation also included features which significantly increased the cost but which seem unlikely to be necessary.

Outcome & Recommendations

The outcome of the inquiry is that the large reservoir proposal has been rejected.

High on the list of the Inspector's recommendations is that a Severn – Thames water transfer scheme should be added to the unconstrained and feasible options list. Also, that a Severn transfer scheme using the Cotswold Canals must be added to the feasible options list in accordance with the proposal by CCT [14.9.10].

The Cotswold Canals Trust proposal mentioned in the above recommendation has been accepted by the Secretary of State. The proposal should ensure Cotswold Canals Trust involvement as part of the process. 

Other alternatives will also be considered including a half sized Abingdon reservoir and effluent re-use amongst others.


Thames Water losing this Public Inquiry does not mean that Cotswold Canals Trust has won it!

It was never ours to win, but clearly our scheme will now have to be firmly on the agenda whereas previously it was being ignored.


Click on the icon below to view DEFRA's letter to Thames Water.