Icebergs may be towed into Thames as drought hits.

The Times May 17, 2006

Water company bosses plan to tow icebergs up Thames
By Lewis Smith

Transporting water by road or via a national grid has been rejected because of the scale of the shortages and the costs

TOWING icebergs from the Arctic is among the measures proposed by water chiefs to solve emergency shortages.

The prospect of icebergs sailing up the Thames Estuary to keep London and the Home Counties supplied with tap water seems far-fetched but is under serious consideration by Thames Water.

It is one of the options being looked at as the South East faces the possibility of its worst drought in a century.

“We have to look at any possible alternative, including towing icebergs from the Arctic and seeding rain clouds,” Richard Aylard, of Thames Water, said at an emergency meeting of the London Assembly.

Asked what could be done to relieve supplies in the event of an emergency drought order being declared, he said: “We are looking at emergency measures involving bringing in bulk supplies by sea.

“Tankers from Scotland and Norway are something that has been looked at. If we get into an emergency situation that’s the kind of thing we would be looking at. It’s very much the last resort.

“It’s not impossible. It would be an extraordinary thing to do but we will have to look at extraordinary measures if we are in an extraordinary situation. We are looking at that now.” Transporting water by road has been considered but has been all but rejected, even if an emergency drought order was to be declared because of the scale of the shortages.

When lorries were used to transport water during severe shortages in Yorkshire in the 1990s, the number of people affected was small compared with the 13 million facing drought in the South East, 8 million of whom live in the Thames Water region.

“Bringing water around the country by road supply isn’t going to work for eight million people,” Mr Aylard told the meeting. Sea tankers would be the first choice, he said. Using icebergs to help to solve the water shortage would, he accepted, be regarded as “daft” by many people. Thames Water has not established whether icebergs from Greenland or northern Scandinavia would be the more appropriate.

Hosepipe and sprinkler bans are in place as the South East is suffering exceptionally low water supplies before summer has started.

The first drought order since 1995 takes effect in Sutton and East Surrey on May 27 and two more water companies, Southern and Mid Kent, have applied for orders. Thames Water has been told by the Environment Agency to seek one.

After a drought order comes an emergency drought order, which is imposed when standpipes and water rationing are required because of acute shortages. Only essential water use is permitted.

Mr Aylard, speaking alongside Mike Pocock, of Three Valleys Water, said that as well as icebergs and a fleet of tankers transporting water across the North Sea from Scandinavia, a national water grid has been considered, but discounted because of cost. Such a grid would allow water from well-stocked parts of the country to be piped to areas where there are shortages.

Each household’s daily water weighs, on average, two thirds of a tonne and to pump enough to supply even small parts of the South East would be prohibitively expensive.

Mr Aylard said: “This is something that’s been looked at for more than forty years. Every time they’ve looked at it they have concluded that technically it’s possible, but it isn’t practical. Moving large amounts of water around isn’t the answer.

“The idea of a national water grid doesn’t work, because of the cost of the infrastructure but, more importantly, [because of] the cost of the energy in pumping it round. Water is bulky.”

More reservoirs are needed to store water but they take years to build even once permission has been granted.

Thames Water hopes to create a reservoir near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, but the earliest it could be ready is 2020.

An appeal to overturn a decision by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, to veto a desalination plant at Beckton, East London, begins next week.

The Environment Agency stepped up its pressure on water companies to limit consumption by calling on Three Valleys Water yesterday to apply for a drought order and repeating its demand for Thames Water to get one.

Robert Runcie, of the Environment Agency, said that a drought order, which permits companies to ban non- essential uses of water, could be applied sequentially and sensitively to lessen any economic impact.

He said: “Our concern is that if it is left for too long then it will be a situation where an emergency drought order would be required and then a full sweep of draconian measures would come into play.”

The Forum of Private Business said that small companies in the South East were victims of “mismanagement” by water companies.

Nick Goulding, the forum’s chief executive, said: “Not only are [businesses] paying for water companies to carry out long-overdue repairs, but now they will pay a further cost for the lack of foresight by water company management.”


An estimated 3 trillion cubic metres of iceberg water melts into the sea each year. This is almost as much as the 3.3 trillion cubic metres worldwide annual consumption of fresh water

An iceberg one mile long, 1,000ft wide and 900ft deep would contain 20 billion gallons of fresh water, enough to supply 445,000 families in Britain for a year

At most, only one fifth of an iceberg is visible above the waves. The rest is under water. Icebergs can extend 2,400ft deep, more than three times the height of Canary Wharf

Captain James Cook, the 18th-century explorer who circumnavigated the world, recognised the potential of icebergs as a source of water for ships

On January 9, 1773, he wrote: “Melting the ice is a little tedious and takes up some time; otherwise this is the most expeditious way of watering I ever met with”

During the Second World War Churchill approved an experimental plan for using ice to build unsinkable aircraft carriers. A 60ft model was floated on a Canadian lake before the project was ditched
Sounds like your might British Empire is hitting some hard times here Blackleaf... Next you will be forced to ask the French for simple things like water. =-)
I think not
You can always replace beer with tap water.

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