Towards a national grid for water

When summer begins in the UK, questions are raised around water availability, along with discussions on hosepipe bans, fixing leaks in networks and the transfer of water throughout the UK.

Disregarding any political issues, the technical reasons which are preventing the implementation of a national grid for water in the UK have been defined and dismissed because of the costs. Unlike electricity or gas, water is heavy and the price of pumping it from north to south of the nation is extremely high.

As well as the price of a network of new infrastructure being unacceptable, so is the uncertainty involved in determining where spare water is available and where it is needed. This has brought the decision making process to a standstill.

Water Transfer Schemes

Over the past few years, teams have been involved in a range of projects involving large scale water transfer schemes and in particular, finding alternatives to improve the resilience of water networks. Within that time the specifics and scale of the schemes differed, however, a common theme was identified - the need to enable the displacement of water resources from areas of water surplus to areas of deficit.

Even though some of these schemes may look appealing during the first stages, experience proves that, despite encouragement from the regulator, they fell by the wayside because of the differing opinions of the different commercial entities - each of which have different aspirations, needs and ways of working.

The water schemes haven’t attracted the degree of investment in human resource and capital needed to make them reality. This has been a major barrier in the development of an effective national water grid.

The regulatory model needs improving to enhance success and work towards the aim of creating the most effective, successful national grid for water.

At the moment, the water sector has decided that yes, a national grid for water may become reality within the UK, but it will not be the dedicated network for water mains supply that the south-east had hoped for.

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