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:
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”
Today’s strong onshore winds mean that flood warnings are still in place for this evening’s high tide. Meanwhile winter has officially arrived. There have been several showers of hail here in Davidstow this morning. Here’s one of the heavy showers on the radar rainfall (and hail!) map:
The facts are that we have a combined sewer system in this country, meaning rainwater and sewage both flow into it. This means that heavy rain and storms can lead to additional pressure on the system that needs to be released”. lt is not a coincidence that discharges happen most often during or after a storm. lf this pressure is not discharged the wastewater – including sewage – will back up into the streets and into people’s homes. This is not hyperbolic; it is a fact. The age of this Victorian sewerage system means that the complete elimination of storm overflows would be extremely challenging. Unfortunately, they have always been a part of our wastewater infrastructure and until now little action has been taken by any government or party.
One of the recent amendments in the Lords would have required work to be done to eliminate sewage discharges, and I was one of several hundred MPs who opposed it. Initial estimates of the work necessary to achieve this are in the region of £150 billion and upwards. To put that in perspective, this is more than the entire budget of the NHS. These costs would inevitably be passed onto taxpayers or water bill payers. No sensible legislator could have backed this. I am of the view that the water companies should foot the bill for improvements over time and not the taxpayer, so these improvements must be manageable.
That rather begs the question about where we would be now if the necessary improvements had been started a decade or two ago? And indeed what the actual cost would be in today’s day and age!
[Edit – November 1st]
This tweet from Professor Dieter Helm seems apposite at this juncture?
[Edit – November 3rd]
After almost continuous heavy rain, hopefully the end is in sight for the current series of pollution incidents on the beaches of North Cornwall. Several beaches are not being monitored at this time of year, but currently Widemouth Bay and Trevone are the only ones still marked in red on the Surfers Against Sewage water quality map:
Hopefully those two will get the all clear tomorrow
[Edit – November 5th]
In answer to my question above about “the actual cost of the necessary improvements to the UK’s ageing sewage infrastructure”, the Government has just announced:
An independent research project that considers options, costs and benefits for reducing storm sewage discharges in England.
Reducing sewage discharges from storm overflows is an important priority to protect the environment.
This research, the first assessment of its kind, was commissioned by the Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, CCW, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – and funded by Water UK.
The independent research, carried out by Stantec, presents a detailed overview of potential approaches that will act as an important evidence base for government action.
The Storm Overflows Taskforce will now consider the report and its recommendations to:
support the development of the best mix of policy solutions
inform the government plan on storm overflows to be published in September 2022.
The report itself evaluates the costs and benefits of a range of scenarios. The methodology used is summarised like this:
The policies tested consider the universal implementation of permits to control storm overflow spill frequency to an average of either 40, 20, 10, 5 or 0 (zero) times per year (named F40, F20, F10, F5 and F0, respectively).
Three scenarios are also considered, describing the engineering approach used to deliver policies. The first relies on a conventional approach to capture spills from storm overflows using network storage (W) which is sized sufficiently to capture spills and allow for these to slowly return to the sewer network for treatment.
The other two augment the conventional approach with partly or wholly nature-based technologies (retrofitted SuDS) at two levels: 10 percent of impermeable area controlled (S10) and 50 percent of impermeable area controlled (S50). In this context, controlled means that these flows do not enter the combined sewer system. The SuDS solutions are implemented in addition to sewer network storage; therefore creating mixed grey-green solutions. The S10 level of SuDS is at a modest level across the catchment, whilst the S50 level is at a high level. Controlling runoff from 50% of impermeable area (S50) is broadly equivalent to preventing all highway runoff entering combined sewers in a fully combined catchment.
The costs of the various approaches are summarised in the following infographic:
There seem to be a wide range of available options that cost considerably less than £150 billion, and that’s before accounting for the associated benefits.
A big swell was forecast to arrive on the coast of North Cornwall last weekend:
Discretion is the better part of valour, especially at our advanced age. Hence we merely admired it from afar on Friday evening:
The waves were significantly smaller on Saturday, so the Davidstow.info editor-in-chief and artist-in-residence packed our gear into Lisa, our Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, and headed for Widemouth Bay:
We even managed to record some moving pictures of the scene at the seaside, as did Dave at Watergate Bay!
P.S. We also managed to record some video footage whilst immersed in the Atlantic Ocean. In episode one your intrepid editor inadvertently found himself in the midst of a sizeable closeout, and managed to breathe in some seawater of hopefully unadulterated quality: