Our services play a key role in enabling the growth of our region and we need to meet the increasing demand for water and water recycling that growth brings. We also operate in an area of water stress that contains many wetland and conservation sites of national and international importance. To meet the needs of customers and the environment, we are continually planning and investing to maintain the balance between supply and demand.
Our investment programme includes large, strategic schemes, as well as those that improve water quality and the connectivity and resilience of our network. We are also working to improve the resilience of supplies, to ensure the majority of people can be supplied from more than one source.
We are currently preparing our draft 2019 Water Resource Management Plan (WRMP), which will describe our plans for maintaining the supply–demand balance over the next 25 years, including the measures needed to secure reliable, sustainable and affordable supplies for customers and business. Preparation of the draft plan is being supported by work with the Water Resources East project (WRE). Set up by Anglian Water, the WRE brings together all the area's water companies with farmers, conservationists and regulators. Its aim is to develop a strategy to secure long-term water supplies for water companies, agriculture, the environment and the energy generation sector.
We wanted to see the same collaborative, multi-sector approach adopted on a national scale. This led us to take the leading role in a major project, undertaking research into the resilience of water supplies over the next 50 years. The resulting document – the Water Resources Long-Term Planning Framework – was published in September 2016 and set out options for maintaining resilient and affordable water supplies in the face of the growing risk of drought in England and Wales. It has been well received, with its findings widely used and referred to in a number of high-profile documents, including Defra's Strategic Priorities Statement, published in April 2017.
For water recycling, our supply–demand investment programme includes work with partners to deliver water quality improvements and reduce flood risk. To keep pace with growth in the medium term, we are increasing capacity at our water recycling centres and expanding our sewerage system. At the same time, we are developing a Water Recycling Long-Term Plan, to better understand the investment that will be needed to mitigate the risks posed by climate change, severe flooding and strategic growth.
Our region is already the fastest growing outside of London. We have a statutory duty to provide water and water recycling services to new homes and businesses. To better meet this challenge, we have formed a new Strategic Planning team, bringing together legal and planning expertise. The team will work closely with local planning authorities, developers, the Environment Agency and others to make sure we can meet future demand and ensure that growth is both manageable and sustainable.
Our resilience scheme to support Grafham Water Treatment Works will increase the security of water supplies to people in the west of our region. The scheme includes a new, state-of-the-art storage reservoir and pumping station adjacent to the Works. Innovative trials proved that in an emergency it would be possible to reverse the direction of flow through the water main linking Grafham Water Treatment Works to Wellingborough in Northamptonshire.
This means that if Grafham Water Treatment Works was ever out of action, the same pipe could be used to fill the new reservoir with treated water from Wing Water Treatment Works in Rutland.
The scheme has made use of two huge pumps originally installed to send extra water from Grafham to drought-hit areas in the west of the region. If necessary, they would help send water in the other direction, back towards Grafham and the new storage reservoir. A string of new pumping stations have also been built to make sure customers' water pressure is maintained if flows are reversed. New pipework and valves have been installed and electrical modifications made at existing sites to ensure the network runs smoothly, regardless of which way the water is flowing.
This innovative approach enabled a cheaper, lower carbon solution to be proposed and the final scheme came in £32 million cheaper than the initial design and with 61 per cent less embodied carbon.
The scheme will also accommodate growth. By 2036, it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million new homes will be built and more than 380,000 jobs created across Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. With a working capacity of 40 megalitres – the equivalent of 16 Olympic-sized swimming pools – the new reservoir is the largest pre-cast service reservoir in Europe. It was officially opened by The Duke of Edinburgh in May 2016, 50 years after his original royal visit to open Grafham Water Reservoir in 1966.
The scheme – reservoir, network changes and the focus on innovation, collaboration and challenge to business as usual that drove it – is the latest example of how we continue to build ever-more resilient systems to meet the challenges of population growth, the impact of climate change and the need to protect the environment. It's part of a bigger jigsaw, providing the essential infrastructure for sustainable growth and underpinning the regional economy.