Our work to create a new back up water supply for Birmingham is well underway

Our work to reinforce water supplies for Birmingham is well under way.  

A hundred years ago, the Victorians built an amazing aqueduct that transports water 72 miles from Wales to the Midlands - the Elan Valley Aqueduct (EVA).  It’s an incredible feat of engineering and supplies over a million customers across Birmingham with the hot water for their morning shower and a well needed cup of tea.  But with 100 years of service comes
wear and tear, and we need to take the EVA out of service for a short amount of time every now and then to maintain and make some repairs to it.  Bring on the Birmingham Resilience Project – our flagship engineering programme.

Jane Simpson, head of engineering, explains: “At the moment, the EVA is the sole source of water into Birmingham, and storage at our treatment works at Frankley means we can only turn it off for a few days at a time for maintenance.  To allow us to turn it off for longer periods, a back-up water supply for the city is being created, and work began earlier this year with a new 25km pipeline from Stourport-on-Severn, into the existing water treatment works in Birmingham. 

“We’re happy to say that the work is going really well, and at 9km, around a third of the pipeline has been laid already.  To avoid any inconvenience to local people, we’ve tunnelled under many roads rather than close them, even the M5!  Those people who live or work along the route will be able to see a lot of the new pipes strung out across the countryside like a huge blue rope, ready to be sunk into the ground.  It’s an incredibly impressive sight - each pipe is 17m long and over a meter in diameter and there are 1,800 pipes to be laid altogether to
complete the 25km journey.

“But people shouldn’t worry – once the pipes are in the ground we’ll work hard to put the land back to exactly how it was before, and then people will never know that it’s there.”

The new pipeline is just part of the story though, Birmingham’s back up supply will include water sourced from right across the Midlands via existing pipelines, making sure when you turn the tap on it’s always there.

Once the work is complete, in 2019, the EVA can be shut down for short periods for repairs, and the back-up supply will be put into action.  As the back-up water is from different natural sources customers might notice it has a slightly different taste or smell.

Jane explains: “We care passionately about making sure that our customers have great water both now and in the future, which is why we’re taking the time now to look after this vital
aqueduct.  We’ll make sure that it will continue to serve us all well for another 100 years and so our customers can carry on enjoying this force of nature in their very own home.

“While we do this, and from time to time in the future, we’ll be using the back-up water supply sourced from Worcestershire and other parts of the Midlands, but the rest of the time, Birmingham will still get its usual fantastic water from Wales, hopefully for generations to come.”