Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

University professor says that water could be the ‘oil of Wales’ and sold over the border to England

25 Aug 2022 7 minute read
Llyn Efyrnwy in Powys. Picture by Sue Tupling (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Water could be considered the “oil of Wales” in the future if plans to transport water to drought-stricken parts of England go ahead, an university professor has said.

Professor Roger Falconer from Cardiff University told Newyddion S4C that England should “pay for the water”, with the revenue being invested back into local communities in Wales.

His comments come after the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission said “work has already begun” to transfer water from Wales to drought-hit areas of England.

Sir John Armitt, speaking on The Briefing Room on Radio 4, said that water companies in England did not want to invest in reservoirs and that they were unpopular with communities that did not want to see their land flooded.

Instead, he said, Severn Trent and Thames Water were in talks to transfer water from Wales to the south of England, starting at Lake Vyurnwy and being transferred through pipes or a canal to the Thames basin.

But Professor Falconer said that with water supplies in England under “severe pressure” Wales could look to increasing the size of its reservoir in the Elan Valley and transferring the extra water captured there through the Wye or Severn rivers and through canals to the upper Thames.

Speaking to S4C News he said it was “a good opportunity in many ways”.

“We would supply directly under drought conditions to the south east of England and I would see this as the oil of Wales for the future in terms of revenue,” he said.

Thames Water have confirmed that they are “consulting” on plans to transfer water from reservoirs owned by United Utilities in Wales. United Utilities said that the plans would not impact on the amount of water available to existing customers.

‘Transfer’

Speaking on Sunday, the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission John Armitt had said that companies were looking at having “more water in the supply side by building more reservoir capacity, or in addition, providing water transfer scheme so you transport water from where you’ve got a surplus in the country to the areas where you are likely to have a shortage”.

Reservoirs were he said “the most capital intensive thing that you can invest in. So we’ve got the natural reluctance, I guess, of the private companies to lay out shedloads the capital to build new reservoirs, and no great pressure on them, to be frank from the regulator to build new reservoir capacity.”

“And of course, everyone knowing that as soon as you propose a large new reservoir, you are going to run into local resistance from the local population who won’t want to see two or three square miles or potentially maybe four square miles of agricultural land devoted to a new reservoir.”

David Aaronovitch interjected to say: “Or as in the case of Wales back in the day, whole villages.”

Sir John Armitt added: “Well, indeed, and of course one of the biggest in Wales is Lake Vyrnwy, which would be the potential source in a water transfer scheme.

“Essentially, you are transferring water from one river basin to another so you’d be transferring it from Wales. And work has already started on this between Severn Trent and Thames Water.

“So Severn Trent control lake Verwey in mid Wales. And Thames [Water] control the Thames basin, and the plan that they have is to shift water.

“And it could be as much as three to 500 million litres a day between those two catchment areas when you do it through a series of pipework or you could do it through the canal system.”

‘Inter-regional water transfers’

John Armitt’s comments come after GMB London and senior Conservatives suggested pumping the water from Lake Vyrnwy in Powys to the south-east of England to help deal with the drought there.

According to the Daily Mail earlier this week, senior Conservatives are now pushing the idea again after parts of England were declared to be officially in drought.

“Senior Tories yesterday said the current droughts meant it was time to review the plan,” Brendan Carlin, the newspaper’s political reporter said.

They quoted a spokesman for the environment department Defra who said that “inter-regional water transfers can play an important role in moving water from areas of the country with plentiful supplies to those with high demand”.

The water would be shipped from the south of Scotland as well as the north of Wales as these areas receive significantly more rainfall than parts of England, “to create a giant ‘natural water grid’ across the UK”.

Any such plan would however likely be particularly controversial in Wales where previous projects to supply England with water, particularly the drowning of Capel Celyn and Llawddyn, ignited political opposition.

Independence movement YesCymru have campaigned on the issue, calling for Wales to receive compensation in return for the 243bn litres of water a year extracted.

‘Workable’

The GMB London plan would see water pumped from Wales to the Cotswold canals and down the Sapperton Canal Tunnel in Gloucester.

Mark Holland, GMB London Regional Organiser for the water industry, said: “Thames Water should accept the water being offered by United Utilities from Lake Vyrnwy and get it to the Thames via the restoration of the Cotswold canals and Sapperton tunnel.

“This plan was covered in the Thames Water 2019 draft plan for water supply for London in the 21st century but is not included in the current list of things Thames Water plan to do.

“Instead of this very workable plan one of the things Thames Water is planning to rely on is the hope of consumers cutting daily consumption from 145 litres to 125 litres.”

‘Financial problems’

Plaid Cymru responded to plans for a canal earlier this week by saying that Wales must be paid more than a “pittance” for its water.

Plaid Cymru leader in Powys, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, said that Wales was paid very little for its “valuable” water while CEOs at water companies were paid massive salaries.

“You pay a pittance for what is already taken, merely 3p a tonne or 1,000 litres,” he said. “Yet water industry bosses are paid a fortune with reports that Thames Water bosses were awarded bonuses of £2.4m in 2020 and 2021 despite the company losing up to a quarter of all its water from leaks.

“Likewise build the long awaited new reservoir at Abingdon, a proposal which has been circulating since 2006 and restart the desalination plant to assist matters.

“The Gateway Water Treatment Works in Beckton, east London takes water from the Thames Estuary, treats it and makes drinking water. It was completed in 2010 to be used during dry weather events.

“It has the capacity to deliver up to 100 million litres of water a day – it has been used during dry spells to boost Thames Water’s reservoirs in London – yet has been switched off during the current hot spell!

“This further highlights the need for water to be seen as a valuable resource, a commodity and Wales is fortunate to have it, however, we cannot allow it to be taken and used by large corporations and fritted away whilst our communities get a pittance from it.

“Imagine the benefits to Powys if we merely got 1p a litre for it – the financial problems of our public services locally would be solved.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

23 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 month ago

They won’t pay for it, they haven’t historically. I am sure there is a bigger and more profitable market than England to be looked at, after all, England is a small market but we are close to Ireland which is probably the best trading point for goods between the “UK” and The EU and the EU is a bigger market than just England….. Independent Celtic Nations Trading Agreements are things I dream about. One of the big reasons The English Establishment System in Westminster doesn’t want us independent is our water, because thanks to their foul practice and unwillingness to… Read more »

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

It’s funny how the ones who take pi55 out of Welsh independence always laugh when Welsh natural resources are brought up, Welsh Water will be worth its weight in gold in the near future, Wales needs to secure its water now, not after england has built new pipelines or widened and dredged rivers and canals to carry more of our water away from us. Its always better to be proactive than reactive in cases like this.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Exactly. Now’s the time to locate the key exit points and install the metering systems. With today’s integrated systems we could generate daily invoices for cubic metre volumes shipped, and get paid by EFT within minutes. Water flow into England, cash flow into Wales. Neat bit of business.

Dirk Shorn David
Dirk Shorn David
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

So how would sending water by volume to the EU via Ireland work?

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Not the brightest idea of the day, or the week, the month, year ………

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

Or it could be viewed as a vital environmental asset in Wales and managed as such? Someone ought to let the English Government know that it is possible to build more resevoirs there, you know … to replace the ones they’ve decommisioned. Oh, and fix leaky pipes. And build more desalination plants. Heavens knows they could actually switch on the ones they’ve got.

Sorry, my bad. People have already said this to them. Makes you wonder why they want Wales’ water doesn’t it?

Dirk Shorn David
Dirk Shorn David
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

So

England pays Wales for the water in an agreement to run until 2034 (?)

It is a small amount compared to the whole of the UK.

Wales doesn’t actually own any of the infrastructure, in fact some Welsh areas are supplied by it.

Yet the solution to a free Welsh economy isn’t better education or skills, but holding England in h4teful ransom over something that falls from the sky.

Wow.

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

What an absolute load of rubbish you just wrote. Wales when independent will be entitled to 4.7% of the assets of the UK. Nobody’s holding England to ransom over water. The suggestion is that England puts its own house in order before once again forcing the flooding of Welsh communities and the abstraction of a vital resource from our ecosystem. There is plenty of water in England for Englands needs. Pity that atrocious UK Govts have sold off the family silver to asset strippers and profiteers.

Dirk Shorn David
Dirk Shorn David
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Sorry which villages are due to be flooded in Wales, I missed the planning application notice?

Wales isn’t going to be independent any time soon

In the meantime, why don’t you campaign for the Welsh Government to buy all the reservoirs, infrastructure and land, pay the bill to refurbish the Elan valley dams and see how much change you end up with.

Same old. We will be rich if we sit around demanding England give us things.

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

Again, another load of old rubbish. Get off your moral molehill pal and stop projecting your woeful opinions.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

This already happens – english water companies like severn trent send water from reservoirs they own in Wales to their customers in England and charge them for it. PS. your latest nom de plume is risible even by your dismal standards 😉

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
1 month ago

As it falls from the sky, the english are quite capable of building or enlarging their own reservoirs and there by avoiding paying anything to Wales,

Arwyn
Arwyn
1 month ago

You’d think he’d be capable of understanding that. Yet here we are spelling it out to him. Just some troll who fancies himself a bit of nat-bashing. Just wait till he finds out who the nationalists really are 🤯 Done feeding it now though.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Arwyn

The Lake District has gone very quiet…

Marc
Marc
1 month ago

No disrespect to the good professor but this is no revelation. Welsh coal fuelled the “Empire” and we have little to show for it, let’s not make the same mistake with our other natural resources

DAI Ponty
DAI Ponty
1 month ago

We are always told that the South East of England Keeps Wales Scotland Northern Ireland and the rest of England load of gobblers. This is Tory Propaganda through their usual rag newspapers think of the money from coal which nothing was put back into Wales in todays money thousands of billions of pounds the men paid for it with lives MINING DISASTERS ACCIDENTS and the DUST ON MINERS LUNGS the mess on the landscape of our country with coal tips and Scotland with the Oil if they had been independent they would have been a rich country instead MAGGIE HAD… Read more »

Richar
Richar
1 month ago
Reply to  DAI Ponty

and sell the water at a realistic price; it can’t be said often enough.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

I find the outrageous comments made recently by WO minister David TC Davies staggeringly treacherous. He said that Wales selling water to England was narrow-minded, would stir up division, which would mean the English questioning why they give £1 billion to Wales in growth deals. Davies also stated how Wales would benefit with electricity from Hinckley point forgetting that Welsh taxation has gone into the buying of the land & upkeep. Also, we in Wales pay for any electricity received from the national grid and also make electricity with wind turbines & hydro-electric powerplants that utilize Welsh land & water… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

The only time that D TC Davies opens his mouth to the press, is to talk down our country and it’s people. I am yet to hear a constructive statement from this weasle regarding anything to do with Cymru. Ingratiating himself to his London masters is his only mission, and he is rather good at it, so good, it makes him look like a grovelling, sniveling little sh* t, to the population to the west of the border with England.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth

Yes, well said. But I find scummy Anglophile David TC Davies lame excuses offensive when any division caused are the actions of Conservative party who have again cynically bypassed our Senedd Cymru using an English water company to extract further water from an already affected nation that has drought measures in place. And to rub our nose in the dirt, the only ones who will benefit from our water resource are Severn Trent, the Home Counties and the English treasury, not Wales.

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
Glen
Glen
1 month ago

OFWAT data shows that English water companies lost more than a Trillion litres through leaks last year alone.
Since privatisation Water companies have invested just £5bn in infrastructure while they have paid out £72bn in dividends to their shareholders.

They should be forced to use their profits to repair and replace their ancient pipework before they plunder Wales.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Actually this already happens. English water companies like severn trent send water from reservoirs they own in Wales to their customers in England and charge them for it. Why should Wales not do the same?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

We all know that no matter how much we protest they will still take it and give nothing in return. Our only way to ensure they pay – is through independence. Then they will have to pay or get – nothing !

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.