Veolia responds to new Herts reservoir challenge

WITH parts of Herts covered by a hosepipe ban because of water shortage Veolia has been asked why it has not built an additional reservoir in St Albans to prepare for periods of drought.

Peter Swinson, of Cambridge Road, St Albans, has told Veolia it should consider turning the contentious site of the proposed Rail Freight terminal, the former Handley Page Aerodrome in Park Street, into a reservoir.

Seven water companies in the south east and east of England, including Veolia, have imposed temporary use bans on customers.

Restrictions on the use of hosepipes came into effect on April 5.

It follows months of exceptionally low rainfall, making the last two years the driest period since 1900.


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In an email to the water company Peter asked: “Since 1976, the last serious drought, what additional water reservoirs has Veolia constructed or tapped into?”

Peter added: “I notice that when it does rain there is an awful lot of surface water on the site, implying that the ground is quite impervious.

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“There are currently high embankments along three sides of this site, the M25, the railway line and the A405. With the addition of an embankment on the Park Street side would this not make an ideal reservoir?”

Peter suggested there was scope to transfer water from the River Ouse, within 50 miles of Hatfield and St Albans, where water drains into the sea. Rather than let all this water go to waste, he suggested, a large single pipe system could be constructed beside either the railway line or the A1 and used to replenish local aquifers.

In addition, Peter said that Veolia was leaking water at the rate of 70 litres per person a day.

He added: “No additional reservoirs have been constructed or tapped into since 1976 but the company has changed from numerous small water companies to one large company.

“During this time new borehole sources have been developed and network interconnections have all been improved, with the addition of a trunk main network.

“Proposals to build new storage reservoirs in the south east of England have been supported but these have been rejected as not necessary at public enquiry.”

A spokesman for Veolia said that building new reservoirs would also result in higher water prices.

An additional pipe along the railway or the A1 would be, “hugely expensive to lay and also to install and run pumping equipment”.

He went on: “Aquifers can only be replenished by water filtering down through the soil or chalk during which it is filtered naturally. Excess water cannot be used to fill them by, for example, pumping it down through boreholes, as this would reduce the purity of the aquifer.

“The geology in this area is chalk so a reservoir would need to be artificially lined, increasing costs involved. Also land in this area is very expensive and the existing embankments you mention at this site would not have been designed to retain water.”

The spokesman said that current levels of leakage were “at an all time low and well within our Ofwat [which regulates water and sewerage providers] target”.

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