High speed rail lines .........are water Utilities on the same track?
Last week one of the UK newspapers commented on United Utilities' idea to run a 2metre water pipe for over 200 miles from Manchester to London, this was especially topical given the announcement of the drought designation in the same week. I am sure the UK Government are keen to welcome innovative approaches to move water from apparently more plentiful areas to more "restricted" areas. However, how practical and viable would this approach really be?
The underlying fact is that it is extremely expensive to transport water, unless of course the route was all downhill. The amount of water that it is claimed would be transported down the pipe equates to less than 2% of Thames Water's daily supplied water.
However, even besides the physical cost and effort of transporting water, it was pointed out at the Water UK City conference last week in London by water company executives including United Utilities' CEO, Steve Mogford, that to run such a main down the side of the proposed High Speed Two (HS2) rail line would be a highly risky venture anyway!
But the principles of trading water relatively short distances between different water companies is a reality and is being more actively discussed as a result of the government's Water for Life white paper and Ofwat's, the water regulator, consultation document. The attendance of both Defra and Ofwat at the conference ensured active debate on the subject. The point is that whilst rainfall has been extremely low in many parts of the UK for quite some time, we have also experienced too much water, leading to floods in other parts of the country.
This unpredictability moves the debate to discuss the options available for water sustainability-type demand reducing initiatives such e.g. grey water use and more domestic water storage. Should such initiatives be implemented even when there are no actual restrictions in place? This would mean even with today's demand that there would then be surplus for use by other "more needy" requirements for clean water.
There are also other perspectives to be considered. The news article also identified the question of who would ultimately end up paying the cost... the customer of course. The initial cost of installation, as well as the on-going cost to operate (and maintain) such a structure would be substantial and is the price ultimately worth paying?
This topic is unlikely fade away given the changing climate the UK and other parts of the world have been experiencing recently. Thus more innovative thinking is required in terms of how a more sustainable solution to the water supply in the UK, as well as other parts of the globe is achieved.