HL Deb 15 July 1964 vol 260 cc244-5

2.39 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in the storage of water underground instead of on the surface, in view of the shortage of land for agriculture, industry, housing and recreation.]


My Lords, large quantities of water are already being obtained by exploiting the natural storage capacity of underground aquifers. In some areas, however, the full capacity of the aquifers is either not known or is not being fully utilised. The Thames Conservancy are now exploring the potentialities of the chalk in the Thames Basin; and, since the publication of the South-East Study, my right honourable friend has arranged for a preliminary investigation of the chalk in the Great Ouse Basin. As to augmenting natural storage capacity by artificial recharge, it is not yet possible to say whether geological conditions in this country are suitable for large-scale use of this technique. This is something which will be studied by the Water Resources Board and the river authorities which are being set up under the Water Resources Act, 1963.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Does he not think that, in view of the fact that some 90 per cent. of all the water that falls over our land in the United Kingdom goes into the sea, there is here a huge possibility of pouring some of this water, which is now running into the sea, under the surface of the land? In that way we could have all the water anybody needed in all parts of the country. Would my noble friend draw the attention of the Manchester Corporation to this possibility of using underground storage of water rather than outmoded, obsolete methods of storing of water on the surface, which also entirely spoils the amenities of the beautiful Lake District?


My Lords, I think the noble Lord would be wrong to suggest that the recharge of the aquifers may be a complete panacea for all water supply problems, because I am sure that it will not be so. The geological conditions for underground storage of water do not exist everywhere, and this is one of the things the Water Resources Board will have to investigate. It is likely that there will be need for continuing abstraction and storage of surface water. I would just say to my noble friend that reservoirs are not always entirely undesirable things. In themselves, they provide recreational uses, as for fishing, boating and sailing. Indeed, a good many reservoirs are now used for those purposes.