The Grand Union Canal & Sustainable Water Delivery
The Grand Union Canal (GUC) was made to connect London, Birmingham and the Nottinghamshire Derbyshire coalfields under single ownership. The main line, running from Braunston to the tidal River Thames at Brentford, was authorised in 1793, stretching 158km and featuring an impressive 102 locks.
With construction completed in 1805, traffic grew rapidly because the line provided a more direct route into London than the Thames and the Oxford Canal.
It initially served to carry brick and gravel during the 20s and 30s, as well as during the war, but once clay and gravel deposits began to wane, the route was used to move waste to the redundant pits, as well as for timber delivery.
March 1960 saw the last recorded delivery of commercial cargo and now the canal – which, incidentally, is the longest in the UK – is home to many a happy houseboat and provides local communities with a huge amount to see and do, complete with beautiful and serene walks, bustling locks, lots of wildlife and areas of living history to discover.
But it seems that the Grand Union Canal is set to serve a new purpose in the near future, with utility company Affinity Water unveiling plans for a multimillion-pound scheme that will see water supplies brought from the Midlands to its central supply region, as well as the Home Counties.
A 100km stretch of the canal will be used to channel water from the Midlands, the first of the water firm’s strategic resource options for more sustainable use of water supplies.
Dr Doug Hunt, head of water resources management planning, explained that this scheme will allow the company to reduce abstraction from chalk aquifers in sensitive parts of the region, with the aim being to stop unsustainable abstraction entirely.
He went on to say that wastewater will be recycled from near Birmingham and treated properly and naturally in order to ensure that it meets potable drinking water standards.
Elli Powers, head of water resources and environment, made further comments, saying: “Our mission is to provide sustainable, high-quality water and work together with our community to make better use of water and safeguard the local environment. We operate in a supply area which is uniquely home to 10% of all globally rare chalk streams.
“Although we have sufficient water to serve our customers now, we need to reduce abstraction from boreholes near these rare chalk habitats in the longer term. We need to reduce abstraction from our chalk groundwater sources and have identified the reduction targets within our environmental destination.”
The 50-year Water Resources Management plan recently published by Affinity Water says that the GUC Strategic Transfer scheme will use existing infrastructure to transport water, taking it from Severn Trent’s Minworth site via a closed pipeline network of around 16km.
From there, the existing canal would be used, travelling through the Coventry Canal, the Oxford Canal and the Grand Union Canal, delivered via a series of pump and lock upgrades. Water would be abstracted near to Leighton Buzzard and stored before being treated and transferred to the Affinity Water supply area.
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