Canal water supplies holding out – for now

Foulridge Reservoir on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (photo: Martin Ludgate)

Foulridge Reservoir on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (photo: Martin Ludgate) - Credit: Archant

Despite the dry winter and spring, canal reservoirs are still full enough, but for how long?

Despite the dry winter and spring, the Canal & River Trust reports that its canal reservoirs are still full enough that there isn’t any immediate threat of restrictions on canal use – but if the dry weather continues, it will be keeping a close watch on how stocks last out, especially on the Pennine routes.

Following England’s driest winter for 20 years, April’s rainfall totalled less than one third of the long-term average, and by early May there were national news stories suggesting that a summer drought was on the way. So Canal Boat asked CRT how its supplies were lasting out, to which the response was that several canals’ reservoirs had seen a percentage fall during April which was well into double figures, but that having mostly started the year nearly full, they hadn’t yet dropped to levels that were anything unusual for the time of year. As CRT’s Water Management Team head Adam Comerford put it, “one drying month doesn’t spell disaster”.

But that’s not to say that the Trust was being complacent: for example on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, where levels were down from 93.6% full in April to 80.4% in May, CRT has been making the local boating trade aware of the situation, monitoring water usage from each reservoir, and working with local staff to control the feed of water to make the best use of water available in case the dry weather continues.

Meanwhile on the Rochdale Canal, which suffers from some of the canal’s original supplies having been sold off during the 50 years when the canal was closed to navigation, the Trust is also monitoring the situation as well as making longer-term plans to install backpumps to secure the canal’s future.

However as yet no restrictions are planned: boaters are simply being advised to share locks where possible, be sure to close paddles properly, and report any water problems to CRT – and indeed, heavy rainfall in some areas in recent weeks has even seen water stocks increase on some canals, notably the Oxford and the Grand Union Leicester Line.

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