VILLAGERS are being asked for their views on plans for a huge reservoir, which would flood an expanse of southern Oxfordshire.

The proposed Abingdon Reservoir, which would cover farmland between Steventon, East Hanney and Drayton, could help provide more than 100 million litres of water each day.

Plans for a reservoir in Abingdon were first revealed in 1996 and since plans have resurfaced and been objected to in 2009 and 2019.

In September 2021, water regulator Ofwat published documents revealing plans for reservoirs across England in a bid to tackle the effects of climate change.

Now, a consultation has been launched by Water Resources South East (WRSE) for its regional plan, which sets out action that could be needed to avoid a potential one billion litre per day shortfall in water supplies within the next 15 years.

How big would the reservoir be?

In the proposed plans the reservoir would have a surface area of 6.7km2 and would stretch between Steventon, East Hanney and Drayton.

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What would the reservoir do?

The reservoir will provide water to the Thames Valley, London, and the wider South East. Thames Water has said the water would be treated locally and introduced into the supply network in the same way as it is currently at the existing Farmoor reservoir.

In addition, the water company is also looking at whether the reservoir could potentially be used to replace some of the water abstracted at Farmoor thereby helping to protect the Oxford watercourses.

Read also: Villagers object to plans for a "overshadowing" reservoir in Abingdon

Why WRSE say it is needed

The reservoir is part of a regional plan to avoid a shortfall in water supplies.

The consultation shows that by 2040, the combination of climate change, population growth and protection against drought, could require a long-term programme of investment of around £8 billion to avoid a shortfall in water supplies in the South East. This could rise to £17 billion by 2060.

 WRSE revealed its plans for between 2025 and 2040, which includes plans for three new reservoirs in the South East – near Abingdon, and at Havant in Hampshire and in West Sussex – to store more water when it is available.

The three new reservoirs, including Abingdon, could provide a total of 325 million litres of water each day.

There will also be £5 billion of investment by water companies to reduce leakage, plans to help customers use water more efficiently and water recycling and treatment schemes.

Why do villagers object to the plan?

Many people living in the area near the proposed reservoir including councillors have objected to the reservoir plans over the years.

Campaigners from Group Against Abingdon Reservoir have been opposing the plans for a reservoir in Abingdon since 1996, when plans were first revealed.

The campaign group says the building of the reservoir would be “destructive” and when finished it will be an “eyesore”. Overall, the group believe the reservoir will destroy habitats.

Read also: Angling Trust support plans for a water saving reservoir in Abingdon

Would it be a flood risk?

Concerns have been raised by councillors that the reservoir would be a flood risk to the area. Thames Water argue that it will help improve flood risk management.

The reservoir would be built on some of the existing floodplain associated with tributaries of the River Ock. Thames Water have said compensation measures will be included in the design to leave flood risk at a lower level than if the project hadn’t taken place.

Would it destroy habitats?

People against the reservoir have said the flooding of farmland will destroy habitats.

However, The Angling Trust said the reservoir could help reverse the decline in many freshwater species and other wildlife that rely on freshwater habitats like wetlands, including many migratory birds.

Thames Water has also said that once the reservoir is built, they will work with environmental specialists to “maximise environmental opportunities”. The water company has said this could include enhancing both the landscape and environment by providing new aquatic and terrestrial habitats that encourage greater biodiversity. 

To find out more about WRSE’s emerging regional plan and respond to the consultation visit the consultation is open until 14 March 2022.

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