Charles Walker calls for more reservoirs to preserve rivers from over abstraction

Charles Walker MP speaking in the House of Commons

Speaking in a debate on water industry infrastructure, Charles Walker calls for more reservoirs in the east and south-east of England to preserve our rivers from over abstraction and enable water companies to store water when it is abundant.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): My hon. Friend wisely talks about infrastructure. One of my concerns regarding the east and south-east of England is that water companies have been extracting water to the detriment of our rivers and not building reservoirs. Indeed, the last major reservoir in the south-east—the Queen Mother—was built 40 years ago. In the meantime, millions more houses have been built, placing more pressure on a valuable resource that tends to come out of the aquifers in the ground.

Charlie Elphicke: My hon. Friend makes exactly the right point. In my constituency, in Dover and Deal in east Kent, we depend on the aquifers. There is water abstraction and water stress, and compulsory metering has been in place for some time. We need to look more closely at the national planning and national infrastructure planning aspect, which I am sure hon. Members will raise.

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Mr Walker: We do not need to move water around from one place to another; we need to build more reservoirs such as the Abingdon reservoir, which was spade-ready and then the plug was pulled, if my hon. Friend will forgive the pun. We need to build more reservoirs, not waste money transporting water around the country.

Charlie Elphicke: My hon. Friend is a passionate advocate for more reservoirs. Reservoirs are not only important for water storage; they are important places for the angling community. Many hon. Members here are passionate anglers who enjoy fishing, and reservoirs provide an opportunity for that pursuit.

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Mr Charles Walker: That is exactly the problem. Our water companies are lousy at collecting water. When it is at its most abundant, they wave it down the rivers into the sea. That is why they need to be building more reservoirs. I am sorry to labour the point, but they are not collecting the water.

Frank Dobson: The next word in my notes is “reservoirs”. Every substantial reservoir that the water companies use was built when the industry was in the public sector. The private sector has not increased reservoir capacity in this country since privatisation in 1989-90.

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Mr Charles Walker: What does my hon. Friend suggest that London does with its faeces if we do not put them into the Thames or build a tunnel to take them away from the Thames? Where will it all go?

Mr Buckland: I am not saying that there is not a problem, but that there are alternative ways of dealing with it through sustainable drainage. Earlier, my hon. Friend made an intervention about the need to build more infrastructure. I heard what he said, but to my way of thinking the Abingdon reservoir was the wrong response to the problems that still besets Thames Water—that is, the massive leakages. Thames Water is still losing 646 million litres of water a day.

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