Fresh idea to tackle water shortage

AFTER last month's heavy rain interrupted the long drought that has been affecting Britain, Anglian Water bosses have started looking at alternative ways of managing the region's supplies.

AFTER last month's heavy rain interrupted the long drought that has been affecting Britain, Anglian Water bosses have started looking at alternative ways of managing the region's supplies.

They are reconsidering building desalination plants to convert sea water into fresh water - and have looked at the possibility of artificially boosting underground water tables.

Very little of last month's heavy rain reached the underground water tables which feed rivers throughout the year.

Before it could soak through to the porous rock, it was soaked up by growing plants and trees, absorbed by dry land, or ran off into rivers and out to sea.

Sara Rowland from Anglian Water explained: “Only rain which falls in the autumn, winter and early spring manages go get through to the underground water tables.

“We are looking at the possibility of pumping some of the extra water that might fall in the summer into these water tables.”

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When there is heavy rain and the rivers are full water can be drawn off into reservoirs. Alton Water is currently 98 per cent full - as full as it can be without overflowing.

If special pumps were built, that water could be pumped underground into the water table.

Ms Rowland said: “It's only one idea, it is something we could look at in the longer term if the pattern of rainfall changes significantly.”

Desalination plants were considered about ten years ago but at that time they were considered too expensive and used too much energy.

Since then a succession of wet winters saw the situation ease, but the last two dry winters have forced engineers to think again of desalination.

Ms Rowland said: “It may be that new technologies mean this is feasible now - at this stage it is only an option we would be looking at.”

East Anglia remains the driest area of the United Kingdom, and the company has taken steps to conserve water - it has the highest number of meters of any large supplier and the smallest number of leaks in the country.

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