Since South West Water’s “temporary usage ban” has been extended across the River Tamar to much of North and West Devon we’re extending our coverage of the drought too.
This week’s Environment Agency rainfall summary hasn’t been published yet, but I can assure you that the weather’s been warm and dry. Here’s a distant picture I took of our local Crowdy Reservoir on Sunday 21st May :
Davidstow Moor has dried out, and the water level in the reservoir has started to decline. Here’s the South West Lakes Trust’s report of water levels in Cornwall on the 21st. It also includes Roadford Lake, the largest reservoir in Devon:
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.
It’s getting late in the County of Cornwall, so I’ll be brief to begin with. Much more from me in due course, but for now I’ll merely mention that yesterday I was interviewed by BBC reporter Kirk England on top of the Colliford Reservoir dam. You can read all about that in another Davidstow.info article, catchily entitled “Where has the water in Colliford Lake gone?“. That one is also a work in progress, so I have a fair bit of catching up to do.
Not only that, but also on the previous Monday I was interviewed by ITV reporter Grace Pascoe about a rather different environmental issue. You can read all about that in an article catchily entitled “How long does it take for Truth to pull her boots on?”. That one is also a work in progress, so I have a lot of catching up to do!
In case you’re wondering, the common thread here is the way information is distorted as it moves in fits and starts across the world wide interweb. Chinese whispers if you prefer, but I prefer the term “truth decay”. In todays initially brief example, Kirk’s article on the BBC web site about the abnormally low water level in Colliford Lake included this extract of our recent conversation:
Environmental campaigner Jim Hunt from Davidstow, near Camelford, has been monitoring reservoir levels – including at Colliford – for the last few years and said the level was “astonishingly low”.
“It rained hard over winter, with a very dry February and now Cornwall’s biggest reservoir is half-full,” he said.
The reservoir level at Colliford is “astonishingly low” according to environmental activist Jim Hunt of Davidstow, near Camelford, who has been keeping tabs on reservoir levels for the past few years.
Cornwall’s largest reservoir is only about halfway full, he said, because of the heavy rainfall experienced throughout the winter and the unusually dry conditions in February. “Where’s the water gone?”
The article led with this artistic mashup of my very own visage with an aerial view of Colliford Lake and the suggestion that “Desalination ‘could provide third of county’s water'”:
I suddenly find myself strangely schizophrenic. Is “Jim Hunt” an “activist” or a “campaigner” or both? And does “Kirk England” have an alter ego called “Kelly James”?
[Edit – March 8th]
I’ll have to stop Googling at bed time. It’s bad for my health. Tonight I discovered an allegedly “exclusive” report about South West Water’s plans to construct two desalination plants on the south coast of Cornwall. Google linked me to an article on inews, a mainstream media organisation which claims to be “For Open Minds“. Allegedly:
inews.co.uk is the UK’s most trusted news brand, according to data from industry auditor PAMCo. We’re proudly independent and have no agenda when it comes to political disputes – but we won’t hesitate to call out injustice or wrongdoing when we see it, no matter who’s doing it.
Our coverage of the news doesn’t stop at the headline, but digs deep with people-focused stories that reveal the truth of life in the UK, explainers that make politics plain, and vibrant coverage of social and cultural talking points.
More than a third of Cornwall’s drinking water could come from desalination if plans for two plants go ahead, South West Water said.
The two plants planned for Cornwall’s south coast will provide around 60 million litres a day. Cornwall uses 170 million litres of water in a 24-hour period, meaning more than a third of its water could come from the desalination plants.
South West Water is yet to disclose the two locations for the plants, but admitted they would not be ready by the time tourist numbers begin to rise significantly over Easter or by the time hundreds of thousands flock to the country each month during the summer holidays.
A spokesman for South West Water said: “We are working towards having plants operational by the end of summer 2023 and are working closely with the Environment Agency and Cornwall Council to achieve this challenging target.
The thing is David, I’d already established that fact long before you “tweeted” your “exclusive”. At 9:46 AM on March 7th to be precise:
As you can see, I’d also managed to dig out an “exclusive” of my very own. As I drift off to sleep with the rain pattering on the window I cannot help but wonder:
How do mainstream media “Chief News Correspondents” go about doing their due diligence in this day and age?
[Edit – March 9th]
After a fitful night’s sleep I woke early by my standards. I decide to experiment with Bing’s shiny new “AI powered” search engine. I eagerly typed in “Jim Hunt Davidstow” (without the quotes) and pressed “enter”.
Top of the image search was this excellent portrait of me:
Page 1 of Bing’s search results looked like this above the fold:
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:
Tempted as I am to do otherwise, having started at the very beginning I suppose tradition dictates that I must continue in chronological order? On February 15th the Davidstow.info offices were visited by Lisa, a very nice reporter for Cornwall Live. We had a long chat, and Lisa took some photos and recorded a video:
Lisa departed, and her resulting article was eventually published on the morning of February 27th. The first I heard of it was when I received a call later that morning from Grace, a very nice reporter for ITV Westcountry.
[Chapter 2 – February 27th]
It seems that Grace had seen Lisa’s article then Googled our names to discover our phone number. I was obviously excited to discover that the Cornwall Live article had been published, and agreed to talk on camera to Grace later the same day. Kevin, the ITV camera operator, arrived slightly before Grace. He told us that he’d already done some filming outside the Saputo creamery. Once Grace had arrived we all went inside and Kevin set up his equipment:
We sat down on our sofa and had a nice long chat, then Kevin filmed us outside on our “patio”. Grace’s report on our conversation aired on the local 6 o’clock news that evening. The next day it also became available on the ITV web site:
It became apparent at that juncture that ITV’s headline writer had been working overtime! The URL above will give you a clue to the fruits of her or his efforts, but we quickly sorted that out via Twitter:
If you have clicked through to Cornwall Live and ITV’s articles you will no doubt note that they both concentrated on the “human interest” side of the story rather than some of the more “technical” issues that were also discussed. However Lisa’s video did include some mention of such esoteric matters.
[Chapter 3 – February 27th 14:00]
I’m in the habit of dating updates to articles as I write them. However that usually happens in near real time. I originally adopted that scheme for chapter 2, but now it seems to make much more sense for this article to use the date and time when the events described took place.
I had plenty of advance warning for Lisa’s visit, so I had time to prepare a briefing note for her. You can download the latest edition here. Please note the copyright notice. Note also that it mentions the somewhat esoteric concept of the “Internet of Things“.
Since Lisa’s visit I’ve added a picture of the “low cost” environmental monitoring equipment that I demonstrated to her:
Getting back to the afternoon of February 27th, I received a call from Daniel who is a very nice photographer from SWNS. He explained that he had found our telephone number via Kasia’s art web site. He was in the area and could he pop round and take a few photos of us? I said OK, but I had a Zoom meeting which wouldn’t finish until 4 PM at the earliest. He said he would arrive after 4, which he duly did.
Now here’s the thing. Lisa received her own copy of my briefing note and a demonstration of the above hardware. Due to time constraints Grace received my copy of Lisa’s briefing note, but no environmental monitor demonstration. Daniel received Kasia’s copy of the briefing note and no demonstration.
Perhaps that goes at least some way towards explaining why none of the numerous articles that have recently been published about the “Multiple pollution breaches at Dairy Crest’s Davidstow site” mention IoT?
[Chapter 3 – February 27th 17:00]
I don’t log in to Facebook very often, but as luck would have it I did so on the afternoon of the 27th. There I discovered that Tom, also from SWNS, had been trying to get in touch with me since 10 AM that morning, in order to arrange an interview. I learned that Tom writes words for SWNS, whereas Daniel takes the accompanying pictures.
When Daniel arrived we were in danger of losing the light, so first of all he took some nice pictures of Kasia and I outside, which didn’t make us look stern or angry or “suicidal”!
Then we went inside and Daniel recorded a wide ranging chat on his mobile phone. I never heard from Tom again after Daniel left us, although I did email him links to some in depth background material the next morning.
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.
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: