Talks - WATER

Wednesday 14th November 2013

Fisher Room, St Mark’s Church, Cold Ash

Two talks with WATER as the theme

An audience of about 40 listened in fascination to these 2 presentations. For the first, Chris Rochfort, of Optimise (contractors to Thames Water) explained all the environmental considerations that affected the provision, and detailed route, of the new water pipeline from Tilehurst to Cold Ash. So we found out that the primary reason for building the pipeline was a threat to the habitat of the very rare Desmoulin’s whorl snail in the Thatcham Reed Beds. Apparently over-extraction of water from higher up the River Kennet was depressing water levels in the Reed Beds and putting the snail population at risk. The European Commission therefore mandated that the extraction was reduced by 5 million litres per day or the water otherwise replaced. Thames Water decided that the solution was not to stop the extraction, but to pump water from further down the Kennet back up to Cold Ash (from where an existing pipeline is available to take water to the Kennet at Speen). A secondary benefit was that the new pipeline improved the overall water supply infrastructure.  Installing the new pipeline cost £7M but so as to not increase this further, nor to extend the timescale, the route of the pipeline was very carefully planned such that a full Environmental Impact Assessment was not needed. Thus the route avoided all locations with particular environmental protection including badger setts, the Englefield Estate, Bradfield College and Grimsbury Castle. The pipeline is now nearly complete and will be commissioned in January 2014.


The second talk that evening was given by local residents Liz and Bernard Mackey on the work of WaterAid. This major charity seeks to bring safe drinking water and sanitation to those communities who do not have them, mainly in Africa and the Indian sub-continent. The consequences of having neither are of course extreme – with diarrhoea (2000 children die per day from this) and diseases such as bilharzia taking their toll. But the problems can be eliminated by the provision of water wells and pipelines, and simple toilets. The emphasis of provision is very much with strong local involvement and everything is designed to be maintained by the skills, tools and materials that are locally available.

Another important consideration with the provision of fresh water within the village is that women and children do not have to walk for many hours a day, carrying water from the nearest available (usually heavily polluted) well or river. Their health is improved by not carrying heavy loads, children have time to attend school and, very importantly, women have time freed up which can be put to other activities which increase the living standards of their families.

Donations given at the end of the evening came to £86 which has been given directly to