Multi-purpose reservoirs key to long-term water security

Multi-purpose reservoirs can harmonise society and the environment but most are not being used to their full potential and could be waiting decades for major droughts or floods, says Black & Veatch's Alex Hamilton.

Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Water Storage – Securing our water supply conference last week, Black & Veatch’s chief engineer Alex Hamilton said multi-purpose reservoirs can improve water resilience across the UK by providing flood mitigation capacity, which will also offer economic benefit.

Hamilton added that the social aspect of reservoirs is just as important as the economic and environmental issues and reservoirs should be seen not as “alien things imposed by the authorities” but as “local and national assets that we all have a share in”.

“The multi-purpose reservoir is a way towards [water security]. Not always easy but well worth it for the social capital gains when a new reservoir is needed and worth it for long-term sustainability,” said Hamilton.

However, one delegate asked Hamilton about the environmental challenges faced when upgrading reservoirs to become multi-purpose, including raising the reservoir to increase storage capacity.

Hamilton said collaboration with multiple stakeholders was essential to ensure all parties with a vetted interest in the environmental impact of the upgrade would be considered.

He added that the difficulty with upgrading reservoirs was that many were registered as Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI’s).

“Multi stakeholders have to work together and I don’t think anybody should have a blocking position, whether it’s Natural England or English Heritage or anybody else. But of course, the environmental considerations need to be taken into account,” he said.

Leigh Stringer

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