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Plan for projected major water shortages by 2045

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PLANS to safeguard water supplies – including by building a new reservoir or expanding Val de la Mare – are being considered following projections that climate change and a growing population could cause major water shortages.

Low water levels at Val de la Mare reservoir.

Demand ­is expected to increase by 17% to 24 million litres a day by 2045. And if no action is taken, demand would exceed supply by 8.2 million litres a day during severe drought conditions from that year.

This figure equates to 34 per cent of the forecast daily demand.

The need to plan for the future was recently highlighted by figures which showed that Jersey has gone 13 consecutive months with below-average rainfall, and that rainfall levels for this year are 16 per cent below average. Jersey Water, which published the figures in its Water Resources Management Plan and has based the projections on a net inward migration of 700 people a year, is now working on a range of options to safeguard future supplies.

They include building a new reservoir, raising the height of the dam wall at Val de la Mare, increasing the capacity of the desalination plant and using quarries and streams which are currently not part of catchment areas.

Helier Smith, Jersey Water’s chief executive, said: ‘We are very vulnerable to drought in the Island and we need to use water efficiently.

‘We must never lose sight of that.’

Extending the capacity of the desalination plant, which was used for the first time in seven years last autumn, is under consideration. Its current ten-million-litre a day capacity could be increased by a further five million. But the process of turning salt water into sea water is expensive, with the site currently costing £5,000 a day to operate.

In 2010, Jersey Water looked at raising the dam wall at Val de la Mare by nine metres. Consultants are now examining whether this – or building a new reservoir – could secure future supplies.

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But Mr Smith said the challenges in building a new reservoir would most likely rule that out.

‘To be honest, I don’t think it’s a realistic option at this stage. Queen’s Valley took 20 years to build and a significant time was spent getting planning permission.

‘In England they are building one near Portsmouth and they’ve had the land since the 1960s.

‘The lead time is extremely long and unless you’ve got a hole in the ground, flooding a valley takes a long time and there’s additional cost because the engineering work is substantial.’

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It is expected the work on the options dealing with water supplies will be finished in time for consultation to begin later this year.

The company is also looking at how water consumption can be reduced through education on using water more efficiently at home.

Although water meters were introduced several years ago following the last review of water resources, Mr Smith says there also needed to be further changes in consumer habits.

‘We need to develop a strategy to make sure we have enough for the next generation. We need to do that now and repeat it every five years,’ he said.

‘We are now following the same Water Resources Management Plan cycle they have in the UK and have also just completed in Guernsey.’

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