It’s our job to keep the North West flowing by maintaining adequate water supplies for our customers, while balancing their needs against those of the environment.
This requires a process of continual planning; leakage reduction; raising customer awareness about the importance of saving water, and bespoke projects to minimise our impact in environmentally sensitive areas.
Water resources are, of course, affected by the weather. We experienced two relatively distinct periods of weather in 2013/14, with hot, dry weather in summer 2013, but mild, wet weather in the autumn and winter. Overall, we had a normal year, and no drought powers were required. Our security of supply index score (a score out of 100 for our ability to meet planned service levels) remained at 100 for the year.
Key activities and challenges included:
Water Resource Management Plan: in May 2013, we published our draft water resources management plan, and consulted widely with customers, regulators and other stakeholders over a 12 week period. We emailed over 500 parties to encourage them to take part in the consultation, issued a press release and held five consultation events. We received 55 written representations – a good response, reflecting a high level of engagement with our plans.
West Cumbria water supply project: West Cumbria is an environmentally sensitive area, and in 2013/14 we continued to work hard to minimise our impact on this special place and comply with the European Habitats Directive.
Ennerdale Water, a natural lake from which we abstract water for the local population, and the River Ehen, are incredibly sensitive environments. Ultimately, we need to cease taking water from Ennerdale entirely.
In 2013/14, we reduced the amount of water abstracted from Ennerdale and launched a major leakage reduction programme, combined with a bespoke water efficiency campaign in the area.
Meanwhile, we explored alternative, long-term water supply options for the area. Following consultation, we identified Thirlmere as our preferred alternative source, and are proposing to invest in the construction of a pipeline to transport water from Thirlmere to West Cumbria.
Before we submit our planning application we’re consulting widely with local people and stakeholders on our proposals and the pipeline’s potential route. You can find more detail about the project and have your say here.
Examination in Public: the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decided to exercise the power to seek an inquiry or other hearing in relation to the water resource plans for West Cumbria detailed in our revised draft Water Resource Management Plan (described above). The Planning Inspectorate has decided the most appropriate format is the ‘examination in public’ format to be held during autumn 2014, and more details can be found here.
Leakage: We maintained an extensive programme of leakage control actions and outperformed the Ofwat leakage target by 11.3 megalitres a day or Ml/d (2.4 per cent) for 2013/14. This is the eighth consecutive year we have met or exceeded the target. Total leakage across the region averaged 451.9 Ml/d, against a target level of 463.2 Ml/d. We also took to the skies to in an award winning project using aerial surveys to detect leaks on rural large diameter pipes in West Cumbria.
Water efficiency: We implemented a wide range of activities to encourage our customers to be more water efficient, and exceeded the water efficiency targets set by Ofwat to the extent we have now met our full five-year targets to 2015 a year early. In West Cumbria where there is an urgent need to promote water efficiency (see above) we launched a bespoke water efficiency campaign called ‘Watertight’.
Abstracting water from the environment: we have to continually balance the needs of our customers with the needs of the environment, by ensuring we don’t take too much water from naturally occurring sources.
In West Cumbria, where abstraction is an especially pressing issue, we maintained a positive supply-demand balance, by reducing abstraction from Ennerdale Water, and providing significant additional flows to the River Ehen downstream. We also progressed with water supply-demand enhancements in West Cumbria, starting construction of a pipeline to utilise a new groundwater supply from South Egremont and to enhance our ability to pipe water into North Allerdale.
Across the rest of the North West, we maintained a healthy balance. Notable achievements included the completion of a flagship scheme for the rivers Brennand and Whitendale a year earlier than forecast. This project saw 6.9km of river improved in a site of special scientific interest and area of outstanding natural beauty. The project made such an impact that it was cited by outgoing Environment Agency Chairman, Lord Chris Smith, as his proudest achievement at the Agency.
If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews