Plans for an “unpopular” reservoir in Abingdon should be a “last resort” say district council.

The Vale of White horse District Council has rejected plans for the reservoir over environmental concerns in its published response to the public consultation on futureproofing water supplies in South East England.

The proposed Abingdon Reservoir would flood farmland between Steventon, East Hanney and Drayton. It is being suggested as one of several options to meet future water shortfalls across the region.

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If given the go-ahead, the reservoir would be up to 15m high on a slope with a width of between 300 and 500m.

According to the Environment Agency if no action is taken between 2025 and 2050 around 3,435 million extra litres of water per day will be needed for public water supply to address future pressures. Around 50 per cent of the national need for water is in the South East.

Herald Series: Environment Agency water shortages statistics from 2020. Environment Agency water shortages statistics from 2020.

Other options proposed by Water Resources South East (WRSE) and Thames Water instead of a reservoir, include the transfer of water from other parts of the country and more recycling of wastewater.

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In a Vale of White Horse Climate Emergency Advisory Committee meeting, councillors discussed their response to the WRSE emerging regional plan for South East England.

The council is concerned that the need for water in the South East may have been “overestimated” and has said that the latest available population and development projections have not been used in the plan’s preparation.

In the written objection to the plans the council has said: “Building a reservoir should be a last resort”

Adding: “The water companies should first secure water savings through reduced pipe leakage, innovation, and reduced water consumption before any of these major infrastructure projects are taken forward.”

Herald Series: Water Resources South East planWater Resources South East plan

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In the meeting district councillor for Wantage and Grove Amos Duveen raised his concerns that the demand for water in London outweighs the demand in Oxfordshire.

He said: “It feels like we are being asked to take on this very large unpopular infrastructure and I am not sure how much of the benefits we will actually get in our region versus how much of the benefit is going to London.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said the water company has not ruled out other options.  

The spokesperson said: “As custodians of the environment we take our responsibility to protect and enhance it extremely seriously while also ensuring our customers have a secure and sustainable water supply now and for future generations.

“To do both we must invest in multiple new water sources, as well as continuing to manage demand for water by halving leakage, installing more water meters and encouraging the careful use of water in homes and businesses.”

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