Havant Thicket Reservoir, the first major reservoir in the UK in more than 30 years

Havant Thicket Reservoir

Global company GHD will begin work on the construction of a large water reservoir in the British county of Hampshire. This is the first project of this scale in the Islands since the 1980s. In the 1970s. and at the same time a groundbreaking project from the point of view of sustainable development. Havant Thicket Reservoir will become a key piece of regional infrastructure, and an important step toward reducing the water crisis in southeast England.

Main objectives of the project

Construction of the Havant reservoir will be carried out by the Future Water JV joint venture on behalf of the Portsmouth Water utility, which supplies water to the city of Portsmouth and parts of Hampshire and Sussex counties. The realization was entrusted to GHD, which specializes in large infrastructure projects in the field of reservoir engineering and dams.

Portsmouth Water has secured £325 million in capital for the Havant Thicket Reservoir project. Ultimately, it will be covered by water bills issued to consumers in southern England for the next 80 years. According to plans, the reservoir will have a capacity of 8.7 billion liters and will be able to supply 21 million liters per day to the water supply system. The location was chosen from among 72 proposals because of the best availability of water and needed raw materials. Water to fill the reservoir will flow through specially constructed pipes from springs located in Bedhampton, 5 km away. Currently, the project is in the planning and preliminary preparation phase. At the same time, the first work on the construction of access roads, trial embankment and surface water drainage is already underway.

Havant Thicket Reservoir as an environmental project

The investment in Havant will not only secure the region’s drinking water supply, but will also significantly improve the environment. The creation of the reservoir will help protect two important chalk rivers in Hampshire County: the Test and Itchen. They have been experiencing record low water levels in recent years. Until now, they have been fed into water supply networks, which has only worsened the hydrological condition.

The new Havant Thicket Reservoir is expected to make the entire southeast of England more resilient to the effects of droughts exacerbated by climate change. The project is also expected to enrich 200 hectares of forest area, which will translate into the well-being of local society and wildlife. Another significant environmental benefit is expected to be a reduction in nutrients entering the waters around Chichester and Langstone, natural coastlines in the south of England of exceptional natural and ecological importance. Wetlands will be created on the northern bank of the planned reservoir, which will become a new nature reserve. The initiative is intended to compensate for the loss of land development for construction. According to the project’s authors, the wetland has the potential to become home to many wild species, while also becoming an important recreational area for people.

July 2022. A strategy for mitigating and compensating for biodiversity damage resulting from the construction of the reservoir has been published. It is based on numerous ecological studies and the 2020 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Mitigation measures have been planned for each identified risk, including landscape, forest and grassland areas, aquatic habitats, and endangered species present in the area.

Expected economic benefits

The Havant Thicket Reservoir project is expected to have a positive impact on the region’s economy, both during construction and in the long term. This is crucial because the Havant suburb adjacent to the development has been identified by the UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as impoverished and affected by high levels of unemployment. During the project’s implementation period, 53 people will find permanent full-time employment here, and after the project’s completion, 11 full-time positions related to local infrastructure and management will be needed. An additional 20 jobs could be created by the need to meet the needs of employed personnel and visitors.

The economic benefits of the investment also include profits and additional jobs created within the local companies involved in the construction of the reservoir. In particular, this includes the supply of materials and equipment, as well as lodging and food for employees. One of the main goals of the project is to support the regional economy, especially small businesses in Hampshire. The investors plan to work with the local chamber of commerce, the media and organizations of engineers and water professionals. The realization of the Havant Thicket Reservoir project may also raise the prices of local real estate, which will gain in prestige due to its proximity to the reservoir and surrounding greenery. There is also a measurable economic benefit from the sheer increase in water resources, which will reduce water withdrawals from local rivers. Thus, the risk of a drought crisis will be significantly reduced, improving the resilience of the local economy.

Social benefits

The authors of a report summarizing the benefits and costs of the Havant Thicket Reservoir project also emphasize that the investment will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of the region’s residents. This aspect can also be considered in an economic context – happier communities create better conditions for economic development. Not only will hydrological infrastructure be built on the project site, but also a visitor’s center, parking lot, picnic areas and bird-watching points. The new green center will be open to the local community, with a network of walking and bicycle paths around it, but also trails for horseback riding. The Havant Reservoir, as a recreational facility, is designed to promote physical activity and health, while also informing people about aspects of water and wildlife.

Havant Thicket Reservoir will be easily accessible to interested parties traveling by foot, bicycle or bus. More than 29,000 people live within a 1.5-mile radius of the reservoir. People, and as many as 120,000 within 4.5 km. This will create new recreational opportunities for families, school groups, seniors, but also ornithologists or dog owners. Individual activities will be supported by volunteers, with a target of up to 200 people. The visitor’s center is to conduct educational activities, while at the same time allowing observation of the reservoir, birds and wetlands.

A café and stores selling local food and handicrafts will operate on site. The construction of the building will be based on natural building materials obtained locally. Nature playgrounds will be built with children in mind, and a network of paths and bridges is planned within the wetlands to allow closer observation of flora and fauna. The social aspect of the project is being developed in cooperation with local organizations, schools and local governments. This helps strengthen the sense of local community while encouraging participation from a wider group of citizens.

Positive impact of the Havant Thicket Reservoir project

The entire investment was planned to balance environmental, social and economic benefits. In particular, the project’s authors emphasize the quality of investment processes, a pro-local procurement policy, positive relations with all stakeholders, accountability, a flexible approach and innovation. Implementation is expected to be finalized by 2029, and the operators of the resulting infrastructure are expected to become strategic water suppliers throughout the region in the medium and long term.

You can read about another major project in the UK in the article:“Geothermal heating in the UK – the success of using disused mines“.

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