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‘Work already begun’ to transfer water from Wales to drought-hit England says National Infrastructure boss

19 Aug 2022 6 minute read
Sir John Armitt picture by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (OGL v1.0). Llyn Efyrnwy in Powys. Picture by Sue Tupling (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Work has already begun” to transfer water from Wales to drought-hit areas of England, the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission has said.

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.

He said that water 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.”

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.”


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One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
1 month ago

“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“

Says it all doesn’t it? They COULD be self sufficient, but the Anglo NIMBYs prefer to steal from the occupied nations instead

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
1 month ago

So while areas of Wales go into water use restrictions, the English think It’s ok to take even more of our water. Now is the time for the Welsh Government to actually do something a bit stronger than just a strongly worded letter to whoever is in charge at Westminster,

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Youre right Mark the Welsh govt should do more than send strongly worded letters but thanks to a shocking legal agreement in 2006 – courtesy of then welsh sec peter hain – trent water can basically do as it likes with any reservoirs it ‘owns’ in Wales ☹️

DAI Ponty
DAI Ponty
1 month ago

So in Wales there is a water shortage in Pembroke and other areas and we pump water to a FOREIGN country england not our own

LynE
LynE
1 month ago

Vyrnwy is so low at present you can see the drowned village. Great timing

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago
Reply to  LynE

Yes, and seeing the English Tory Government have created recent legislation, I think it’s called the ‘Protest powers: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022’, that prohibits the blocking of vital infrastructure, you or I , would be deemed criminals and arrested. Remember Thatcher and the protesting Welsh miners?

If Truss becomes PM would use Welsh & English police forces to subdue protesters anywhere near the dam in question. It’s the equiverlent of being held down while you are being resource raped by a foreign power. Democracy doesn’t exist in Wales. Time for independence, NOW! 🤬

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

What have you got to say on the matter Mr. Drakeford? Are you going to let them ride rough-shod over the Welsh Government?

Glen
Glen
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

He most certainly will.
Useless, unionist Labour will never defend Wales.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen

And this year we ‘celebrate’ 100 years of them being the majority party in Wales!

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

Doormat is as Doormat does.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Good to know that they are already under way. Please advise us where the metering station is located and what is the new rate per cubic metre. Above all make sure that there are no long term credit terms as the English credit rating is poor. Weekly billing with 3 days to pay EFT should do it, otherwise Big Bucks weekly DDM with quarterly settlement by DDM also. We must encourage good habits in these matters, after all that’s what Tory governments stand for isn’t it ?

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

Not only are the people of mid Wales being ripped off by being under a ‘For profit’ water company, now we see the real reason why ‘Not for profit’ Dwr Cymru are not in charge of all water in Wales. It is so that these criminal practices (yes, it’s theft) can take place without permission, or consultation with our government. Dwr Cymru for all and independence now.

LynE
LynE
1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Responsibility for the dam at Vyrnwy lies with the Severn Trent Water Authority and for water extraction with United Utilities, not with Dwr Cymru. If you want to complain about things for which Dwr Cymru are actually responsible look elsewhere

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  LynE

But it’s slightly more complicated than that. Dŵr Cymru own the land, and are paid an annual fee by Severn Trent Water. At the moment STW get the water at cost price under an agreement set up in 1972, which runs until 2073. Hopefully I’ll still be around at that time to see the signing of a new contract that gives Cymru a much better deal.

One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

What Lyn said. Vyrnwy is not under the ownership of DCWW. Severn Trent and United utilities (English companies) own the infrastructure for mid wales and some of the borders

Frank
Frank
1 month ago

Isn’t that ridiculous!!

One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

Indeed. But it’s been that way since privatisation. It becomes obvious now why a massive bite of Cymru’s assets were given to the successful English franchisees.

LynE
LynE
1 month ago

The dam and the pipework were built by a corporation in England to take the water there. I expect the argument was that the assets should remain in the hands of those “serving” the users at point of delivery. You don’t have to agree with it. But that’s how it is at present

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago
Reply to  LynE

Is this Internationally legal, given that we were annexed?

George
George
1 month ago

I don’t want to see anywhere in the UK in drought (anywhere in the world really but less easy to work on infrastructure to link outside England, Scotland and Wales) but I don’t get why the infrastructure being actively worked on appears to always be taking something out of Wales or increasing reliance on our neighbours. There is infrastructure in Wales that doesn’t immediately touch England’s border which needs work on and could be worked on with, for example, devolution of HS2 money. Why do we need to sell projects in Wales as “this is how it helps English taxpayers”… Read more »

Dewi Davies
Dewi Davies
1 month ago

Another englandandwales project from the tories just like HS2 only their version is take from Wales and give to England.Thats their idea of a joint enterprise.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 month ago

So the future is more drought ridden, poor communities in Cymru as our water supply is pumped out of the country for profit – shareholder profit. It really can’t go on, when are we going to wake up and stop being used? Surely our children deserve far far better?

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Afraid Peter Hain is in part responsible for this shameful exploitation of Wales natural resources. In 2006, when he was Welsh secretary, the legal agreement he reached with Trent Water basically allows them to do what they like with any reservoirs they ‘own’ in Wales.

kaiskama
kaiskama
1 month ago

FWA — we need you again !

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Very sly. So those shared water powers devolved under the Con/Lib coalition stating the Welsh Government being consulted regarding any new damns or further water extraction are not worth the paper written on. Wake up Welsh Government. Are you fighting for Wales or willingly bending over? And those arrogant “English” water company CEOs forget. Although Wales is fairing far better than dry dependent SE of England when it comes drought there are still isolated areas in Wales, in Pembrokeshire & Carmarthenshire who have hosepipe bans in place, not forgetting reservoirs levels in Wales are similarly affected. Basically it’s England saying… Read more »

One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
1 month ago

Here’s the thing the mutton headed Rule Britannia clowns have not considered with their Getaway Canal idea. And it frightens me how dangerously stupid they are. This canal would be hundreds of miles long. Open to the elements, boaters, itinerants etc. It would have literally NO security. It could not be policed along its length. Anybody could dump whatever they wanted into the canal and wipe out half the SE population. The GBplc solution would – as always – be more CCTV. So the clever bad guys would simply drop their deadly payload from a drone. Receiving works would not… Read more »

Crwtyddol
Crwtyddol
1 month ago

Minimum price guaranteed, linked to crude oil price index. That might be an idea.

Sam Lewis
Sam Lewis
1 month ago

Welsh Water companies set the price,
and approximately 300 million cubic metres of water a year results in a charge of £2.5m

One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
1 month ago
Reply to  Sam Lewis

Severn Trent and UU, not Welsh Water

Sbardun
Sbardun
1 month ago

Vyrnwy is actually owned and run by Hafren Dyfrdwy, a Welsh company which through legislation reclaimed it from Severn Trent and also absorbed Wrexham Water and the operations of Chester Water that were in Wales (United Utilities got the English portion of Chester Water). Vyrnwy is not owned by Severn Trent, United Utilities or Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
1 month ago

Just think. If we had a little oil or gas they would do the same………..Oh! they do?

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