The NFU has submitted comments to Defra’s ongoing review of reservoir safety.
The Defra review is ongoing but has recently taken on new relevance following the partial collapse of the Toddbrook reservoir dam above Whaley Bridge which placed reservoir safety in the spotlight.
Reservoir safety is regulated mainly by the Reservoirs Act 1975 which sets out various requirements which must be met to owners/operators of reservoirs. Different requirements apply to reservoirs that hold 25,000 cubic metres (m3) or more of water above ground level (known as large raised reservoirs), and for reservoirs that hold less than 25,000m3 of water above ground level (small raised reservoirs).
The Flood and Water Management Act (2010) proposed a reduction of the 25,000m3 above-ground water capacity threshold (where enhanced safety regulations apply) to 10,000m3. The threshold change has already been made in Wales, where reservoirs are located in very different landscapes to those occupied by farm reservoirs in England.
The NFU believes that no case has been made to change the capacity threshold of reservoirs in England.
We support the suggestion that dam height could replace reservoir volume as a determining factor in the application of enhanced regulation. Since most farm reservoirs are fully bunded and located on relatively flat land, it would provide farmers with greater scope for constructing larger farm reservoirs outside the full administrative burden of the Reservoirs Act.
The NFU believes that the risk posed by farm reservoirs is so small that they should be reconsidered as candidates for deregulation because they are typically:
- Low elevation
- Wide flood escape path
- Low water depth and velocity
- Minimal potential impact on people.
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