One way to deal with the water supply and demand problem in the UK is to transfer water from areas of surplus to areas of deficit. The UK Government has been considering developing a national water grid similar to the national electricity grid. This would involve water being transferred through a network of pipes. However, this has not yet been developed due to the high costs associated with setting up such a network.
Current small-scale water transfer schemes and possible future schemes – Source: Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/nov/08/water-supply-infrastructure
There are a number of smaller scale water transfer solutions in place in the UK. This includes water being transferred from reservoirs in North Wales and the Lake District to cities such as Manchester and Liverpool in the densely populated north-west of England.
Also, water from the Kielder reservoir is pumped into the North Tyne river. Water can then be transferred to the River Derwent, the River Wear and the River Tees. This allows water to be supplied to large urban areas including Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland.
Kielder Dam and reservoir
About 5% of water supplied to homes and businesses in the UK comes from water piped in from outside the immediate area, but such schemes have fallen out of favour in the last decades as concerns have risen about the environmental impact on the areas donating the water, the cost and energy use.
Disadvantages of water transfer schemes:
- The dams and aqueducts (bridges used to transport water) that are needed are expensive to build;
- Building dams can have a negative environmental impact, this includes large-scale flooding of natural habitats;
- Fish migration can be disrupted by dams;
- There might be political issues, e.g. people may not want water from their area transferred to another.
- There would be increased traffic and noise from the construction of dams to provide extra capacity;
- The river flow downstream would be affected, along with the wildlife;
- Mixing water qualities.
- Alien species moving further afield.
- Climate change leaving schemes redundant when rainfall patterns change.
- Also, more land would be affected when pipes are run across it.
Advantages of water transfer schemes:
- Areas affected by water scarcity will no longer face restrictions in water use during dry periods.
- Jobs will be created as part of the construction of dams, aqueducts and pipelines.
- The multiplier effect will lead to local businesses benefitting from goods and services being purchased.
- Recreational opportunities as the result of the construction of dams and reservoirs.
- Reservoirs offer new habitats for plants and animals.