No Water for Birmingham Canal Navigations from Chasewater Reservoir

No Water for Birmingham Canal Navigations from Chasewater Reservoir

13 December 2017

The Association has raised concerns with Canal & River Trust after being advised that water from Chasewater Reservoir, which is a major water supply to the BCN, was terminated by the owners, Staffordshire County Council, earlier in the year and that no water has been available to Canal & River Trust’s canal network from the reservoir since the Spring.  

On a regular inspection by the Council's Reservoir Engineer the valve which controls the water feed into the Anglesey Branch was declared unsafe to use in April 2017, cutting off the main water supply to the BCN.  For historical reasons, the reservoir is owned by Staffordshire County Council and managed as part of the Chasewater Country Park, although Canal & River Trust has rights to the water.

On further enquiry, it has come to light that the valve that should be used to control the water has been inoperable for a number of years. The valve that is now closed is intended to be used only for the emergency drawdown of the water from Chasewater.  Staffordshire County Council is in continued discussion with Canal & River Trust to develop a temporary alternative form of water extraction from Chasewater into the canal network that provides both a solution for the canal system but also allows the reservoir to operate at a level that does not impinge on the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Meanwhile, Canal & River Trust has virtually emptied Rotten Park reservoir, which was already low after a dry winter, as well as increasing pumping from the Bradley borehole and using back pumping at Titford, in order to maintain water levels.  

Chasewater Reservoir was created as a canal feeder reservoir in 1797 to directly supply the Wyrley & Essington Canal, and later to maintain levels in the 160-mile Birmingham Canal Navigations network. When the Ogley Locks section of the Wyrley & Essington Canal was closed in 1954 there was a reduced demand for water from Chasewater, and in 1956 it was purchased by Brownhills Urban District Council from the British Transport Commission.  In 1994 Lichfield District Council became responsible for management of Chasewater and the site became a country park in 1998. The reservoir diversified and is a popular public amenity with activities such as water-skiing, sailing, wakeboarding and cycling. Chasewater is the third largest reservoir by volume in the county of Staffordshire and the largest canal feeder reservoir in the West Midlands.

sailing on chasewater reservoirPhoto: Courtesy of Chasewater Innovation Centre, Chasewater Country Park

In 2010 major works were carried out to the reservoir and in May 2011 ownership of the reservoir passed to Staffordshire County Council.  The £5.5 million repairs were completed in April 2012.

Canal & River Trust has informed IWA that work is ongoing with Staffordshire County Council and Natural England to resolve the current issues.

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