Wa­ter, wa­ter every­where?

Canal Boat - - News -

WHAT ARE THE best meth­ods to en­sure that canal wa­ter sup­plies keep pace with de­mand over the next 35 years in the face of pos­si­ble in­creases in us­age, cli­mate change and new leg­is­la­tion? That is the ques­tion that a Wa­ter Re­sources Strat­egy launched by the Canal & River Trust will be aim­ing to an­swer be­tween now and 2020.

The strat­egy is a five-year plan which will: De­fine a tar­get ‘level of ser­vice’ whereby canals shouldn’t be closed (or re­duced to lower than five hours’ open­ing per day) by a drought more of­ten than once ev­ery 20 years (known as a five per­cent prob­a­bil­ity), and as­sess which parts of the sys­tem do not achieve that level. As­sess the po­ten­tial im­pact of cli­mate change (us­ing wa­ter com­pa­nies’ mod­el­ling); pos­si­ble fund­ing short­ages re­sult­ing in in­creas­ing leak­age; new leg­is­la­tion (for ex­am­ple the need to ap­ply to the En­vi­ron­ment Agency for ab­strac­tion li­cences when the cur­rent ex­emp­tion runs out), and in­creased boat­ing. Iden­tify all pos­si­ble ways of saving wa­ter or se­cur­ing ex­tra sup­plies, es­ti­mate their ben­e­fits in me­gal­itres per day against their costs, and iden­tify which ones rep­re­sent the best value. Plan a sched­ule so that for any given ‘hy­dro­log­i­cal unit’ (a wa­ter­way or num­ber of wa­ter­ways sup­plied by the same sources) the pro­posed im­prove­ments will be im­ple­mented just be­fore it falls be­low the five per­cent thresh­old. Im­ple­ment the sched­ule over the fol­low­ing 30 years.

Some pro­pos­als have al­ready been made: for ex­am­ple, no per­mis­sion for new mari­nas if they would mean ex­tra us­age that would breach the five per­cent thresh­old; as­sess­ment of restora­tion schemes for im­pact on ex­ist­ing sup­plies; pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of lock gate re­place­ment based on wa­ter im­pact rather than just on con­di­tion.

In ad­di­tion, two ar­eas have been iden­ti­fied for de­tailed study. All ex­ist­ing out-of-use wa­ter-saving side­ponds are to be recorded and as­sessed to es­ti­mate their pos­si­ble con­tri­bu­tion to wa­ter saving if used cor­rectly ( per­haps un­der su­per­vi­sion of vol­un­teer keep­ers) or wastage if used wrongly. And dredg­ing will be looked at from a wa­ter-saving point of view: not just nor­mal main-line and spot dredg­ing, but also spe­cific sites where ex­tra depth could help – such as sum­mit lev­els, as was of­ten his­tor­i­cally the case. See canal­rivertrust.org.uk for the full re­port.

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