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Water Transfer

'Restoration could offer drought relief'

Restoration of the Cotswolds Canals could offer the most effective solution to solve London's drought crisis.

The proposal, being put forward by engineers at the Cotswold Canals Trust, could see up to 300 million litres of water per day being transferred from the River Severn to the River Thames via the canal. 

Estimates forecast an average daily shortfall in the South East of 60 million litres by 2025. 

Two canals, the Thames & Severn and the Stroudwater Navigation, were opened in the late 18th century to link the two rivers. Now known as the Cotswold Canals, they fell into disuse in the early 20th century. They are now being slowly restored.

Water would be pumped up from the River Severn as far as Sapperton Tunnel, at over two miles once the longest in the world. It would be fed by gravity to the River Thames.

The Tunnel runs 240 feet underground, saving an enormous amount of energy as the water would not need to be pumped so far up hill.

“This scheme has huge advantages over more traditional solutions like reservoirs and pipelines,” says Ken Burgin, Chief Executive of the Cotswold Canals Trust. (Pictured right)

“The energy costs would be around half that of a pipeline, due mainly to lower friction losses. Pipelines are also expensive to install. A reservoir big enough to solve the problem would have to be roughly the size of Heathrow Airport."

"That is a lot of countryside to lose in the South East and would not be popular.”

Mr Burgin estimates the total cost of the canal-based scheme to be £250 million, compared to £1000 million for a proposed scheme to build a new reservoir at Abingdon, Oxfordshire. A proposal recently unveiled by United Utilities recommends a £2.6bn pipeline which would supply the same amount of water as the canal-based proposal.“The environmental benefits are obvious,” he says.

“We end up with a restored canal, no loss of countryside and less need to keep taking water from the ground in the South East.”

The proposals were submitted in 2010 and the Trust has been assisting Thames Water since then to work up the scheme. 

Click on the icon right to read the BBC report on the water shortages crisis.