Continuing my due diligence regarding the current “astonishingly low” water level in Colliford Reservoir I’ve been searching for hints on South West Water’s recently announced plans for two new desalination plants on the south coast of Cornwall. I’ve been poring over their draft Water Resources Management Plan (dWRMP for short) for 2024, which I downloaded quite some time ago. It’s a hefty document, but given the recent media frenzy about possible desalination plants in Cornwall I’ve been over it with the proverbial fine tooth comb. I eventually discovered the information I was searching for in the last place I looked.
Chapter 8 on “Supply-Side Option Development” seemed the best place to start. It had this to say:
The potential addition of repurposed mines and quarries and desalination as supply side options for our SWW WRZs are being developed in response to the current (2022) drought. At this time, no specific options can be included within our feasible list. Work is ongoing and we envisage options will be progressed to a stage where they can be included in our approach by the time of our Statement of Response. Refer to Annex C of this Chapter for more information on our considerations on the use of desalination as part of our revised dWRMP.
As our regular reader(s) will be aware, we have been closely following the water level in Crowdy Reservoir since the locked down spring of 2020. We also started following the water level of Colliford Lake very closely in the early summer of 2022 and during the subsequent drought. Cornwall is still subject to a “hosepipe ban“, officially termed a “temporary use ban”.
More recently we have been astonished to watch the graph of Colliford water storage on South West Water’s web site as the water level in by far the largest of Cornwall’s reservoirs failed to reach even 50% of total net capacity so far this year. By last weekend it had even started to fall:
This morning we went to see for ourselves what a half full reservoir looks like. Here is some of what we discovered, starting with evidence of previous human activity in the vicinity of what used to be Menniridden, recently uncovered for an extended period by the currently abnormally low water level in the reservoir:
Here’s the first in a series of videos we recorded. This one starts with Kasia wandering across the vast exposed “beach”, shot from on top of Colliford Dam:
The Parish Council web site is still not functioning correctly, which is one of the topics on the agenda of the next Council meeting. It will take place at the RAF Davidstow Moor Museum at 7 PM on Monday March 6th.
However there is a downside to such precipitation as well. Needless to say there are now numerous “red flags” on the SAS water quality map:
One of the pollution warnings is at Widemouth Bay, our local long beach break. That is a bit of a shame given today’s surf forecast:
[Edit – March 11th]
Having brought the information above to the attention of South West Water on Twitter an interesting discussion developed. Here are the edited highlights:
[Edit – March 13th]
It rained yesterday afternoon and overnight:
Hence after the briefest of interludes our local big beach break at Widemouth Sand has yet again received a red flag on the SAS water quality map:
Mellendreath and Seaton in South East Cornwall are suffering similarly. However on the other side of the precipitation coin, perhaps Colliford Reservoir has started filling up again and is now at least half full?
[Edit – March 16th]
Would you prefer the good news first, or the bad? The good news is that the “red flags” at Widemouth Sand and Pentewan have now disappeared from the SAS sewage pollution map:
As you can see, the bad news is that two red flags have appeared at Fistral, “one of the most famous surfing beaches in the UK”.
There has been some benefit from the recent rain. At least Colliford Lake is now over half full:
[Edit – March 20th]
Spring was in the air again yesterday:
Here's another panorama, filmed after we'd climbed out of Rocky Valley.
By all means put the #SoundOn, but here's the gist:
Despite the very wet Autumn here in the wild and woolly West Country, South West Water still have a “hosepipe ban” in place across Cornwall. The automated rainfall gauge 49104 at Colliford Lake reveals that there has been very little rainfall in the area for the last three weeks:
As a consequence of that, the water level in Cornwall’s largest reservoir is now still below 50% and decreasing:
I have just returned from a meeting between numerous residents of Davidstow Parish and representatives of Saputo Dairy UK, the Environment Agency and the Davidstow Parish Council. The meeting was chaired by Rob Rotchell, the current Mayor of Camelford, and despite Rob’s best efforts it became quite heated at times!
For the benefit of new readers I should perhaps point out that last summer a UK Government press release stated that:
Dairy Crest Limited, owned by Saputo Dairy UK, and its management of the Davidstow Creamery near Camelford, north Cornwall, has been falling way short of the standards expected by the Environment Agency when it comes to the company’s management of liquid waste, odour and environmental reporting…
Dairy Crest, which produces brands such as Cathedral City at its Davidstow plant, previously pleaded guilty to 21 of 27 charges brought by the Environment Agency. For committing this catalogue of offences, the firm was fined £1.52 million at the crown court on 23 June 2022.
Here’s one of my relatively recent pictures of Davidstow Creamery, so that you can get an idea of the size of their local operation:
As part of South West Water’s continued investment in water resilience across the region, the company is today applying for a permit to unlock supplies from a new source in Cornwall.
Hawks Tor was a redundant china clay pit on Bodmin Moor purchased by South West Water in March 2022, the brownfield site has been converted into a water source and should be supplying customers this month.
This will be the first reservoir brought online by any water company in the country during the ongoing drought, using the latest technology to secure supplies in the short term and provide greater longer term resilience.
Susan Davy, CEO of Pennon Group which owns South West Water, said: “We continue to deliver on our long-standing commitment to investing in our region’s water resources, building capacity where it is needed most and ensuring long-term water resilience across the region. Having only acquired the site a matter of months ago, Hawks Tor should be supplying customers in November. We Continue to take early and proactive actions to ensure the security of water supply for our region during the current drought and into the future.”
Ahead of the first launch from UK soil, “Cosmic Girl” Virgin Orbit’s converted Boeing 747 launch vehicle has touched down at Spaceport Cornwall, Cornwall Airport Newquay.
Cosmic Girl will carry seven payloads into Lower Earth Orbit from Cornwall via the LauncherOne rocket on the aptly named “Start Me Up” mission; Virgin Orbit’s first international launch.
The missions of these satellites span a wide range of activities aimed at improving life on planet Earth, including reducing the environmental impact of production; preventing illegal trafficking, smuggling, and terrorism; and a host of national security functions.
Amongst the numerous people quoted in the press release, Matt Archer, Director of Commercial Spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, said:
Watching a 747 land is always impressive, but everyone had goosebumps as Cosmic Girl touched down on the runway at Spaceport Cornwall for the first time.
We are now a matter of weeks away from launch and, while the excitement is building, teams on the ground continue to work hard on the preparations. More equipment, including the rocket, will arrive in the coming days and the delicate task of integrating the satellites will begin.
We have never done this before in the UK, it is a complex and technically challenging endeavour, and I’m confident in the capabilities of our partners at Virgin Orbit and Spaceport Cornwall to deliver a successful mission.”
Linda Taylor, Leader for Cornwall Council, added:
This is an exciting and significant moment as we welcome Cosmic Girl to the first UK Spaceport right here in Cornwall. Cornwall Council is proud to be a part of this project which puts Cornwall once again on the global stage. Spaceport Cornwall is already inspiring our young people to become the next generation of scientists and innovators – we look forward to the ground breaking research and exploration that will be undertaken in the years to come, which will help us to better understand and address the needs of our planet and in particular climate change.
I was taking my habitual bike ride across Davidstow Airfield yesterday afternoon when my eyes beheld a most unusual sight:
Needless to say I cycled over to enquire what was afoot. The driver of the lead articulated lorry informed me that he was from Poland and his English wasn’t very good. I assured him that his English was better than my Polish! He suggested that I speak to Piotr instead, which I duly did:
Piotr told me that the Polish company Danwood S.A. had previously assembled one of their prefabricated homes down the hill in Tremail, and they were currently about to construct another one down the hill the other way, near Camelford. However the big trucks shown above were unable to negotiate the narrow Cornish lanes, so everyone was busy on Davidstow Airfield transferring the components of the building onto smaller trucks for transport to the site:
Piotr assured me that once all the parts were on site it would take around 3 days to erect the building, and that it would be weatherproof within a week!
Given my own interest in electric vehicles and renewable electricity generation I asked Piotr about whether Solar PV panels or an electric vehicle charging point would be part of their latest new build in Cornwall. He said that Danwood could cater for both, but he didn’t know whether either had been specified for this particular home.
Although not yet shown on the SAS map the Environment Agency’s bathing water quality map suggests not going surfing today at our local big beach break:
In related news here is this morning’s graph of the pound/dollar exchange rate:
It seems everything is going down the pan simultaneously here in Kernow, under the current Government in Westminster. Except bankers’ bonuses in the City of London of course! According to the Guardian:
The City watchdog is being urged to investigate whether leaks of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget allowed billionaire hedge fund investors to make “small fortunes” by betting against the pound.
Tulip Siddiq, the shadow economic secretary to the Treasury, said the Financial Conduct Authority needed to determine whether it was possible for traders to have used insider information to benefit from the crashing currency.
The pound fell to an all-time low of $1.03 against the dollar overnight on Monday before recovering lost ground amid speculation that the Bank of England would raise interest rates to shore up the economy.
Perhaps we need our own currency here in Kernow? Bring back the dynar!
[Edit – October 3rd]
This news comes from the south coast of Cornwall, but according to their Facebook page the GyllyngvaseSurf Life Saving Club’s Endless Summer Swim event on Sunday was postponed for a week:
Unfortunately due to the deluge of rain yesterday, we have a sewage alert on the beach and with another wave of wet weather due for the morning, we have decided to postpone until next Sunday This year has felt like we’ve had constant alerts on the beach so please South West Water can you take responsibility and do something about it?
[Edit – October 22nd]
There’s been a fair bit of rain in these parts recently. Here’s the NetWeather.tv rain radar from yesterday morning for example:
Hence it doesn’t come as a big surprise that this morning several beaches on the North coast of Cornwall are yet again suffering sewage pollution according to the Surfers Against Sewage water quality map:
[Edit – October 28th]
After an all too brief respite from sewage pollution incidents along the coast of North Cornwall, this morning there has been a discharge at Widemouth Sand, our local big beach break:
There have also been incidents at Seaton and Millandreath on the south coast. Further south still, at Long Rock “sewer systems in this location are under maintenance and the water company has temporarily disabled real-time alerts”