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BW maps show drought – but only in a small part of the waterways network

In an echo of the annual winter works stoppages, BW has started to put out maps showing lock closures and opening hours in areas with growing water shortages.

The maps can be found on the new ‘Reservoir Watch’ section of the Waterscape web site.  A national map showing where drought restrictions are biting will be supplemented by more detailed maps focusing on the areas in question. The restrictions include a series of overnight lock closures, restricted opening hours and an obligation on boaters to share locks where possible, to help eke out critical reservoir levels.

It has been the driest year on record in some parts of southern and central England, and the Environment Agency recently confirmed official drought conditions in the South East.

And yet, for waterways users, it still appears to be a localised problem. Currently, six areas have a ‘critical’ water situation: 

  • The Kennet & Avon, east of Devizes 
  • The River Stort, north of London 
  • The Grand Union on the Chiltern approaches to London 
  • The Grand Union’s Leicester Summit 
  • The Grand Union summit between Braunston and Buckby (Norton Junction) 
  • The South Oxford, south of Napton Junction 

The Northampton arm of the Grand Union (down to the River Nene) will also close from mid-April, opening only briefly on specific dates for boat festivals. This will protect the water supply on the more critical route from Buckby locks down as far as Milton Keynes. The Hillmorton and Calcutt locks drawing their water from the ‘Braunston pound’ will also see restrictions.

BW staff will consider other special openings at certain peak times, such as bank holidays, the Crick Boat Show or boaters attending the Olympics or the Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

The maps clearly show a ‘compartmentalised’ situation, with no restrictions planned in other areas. 

Vince Moran, operations director, is urging boaters to go to other areas of the country: 

“Only a small proportion of the network will be affected so if boaters don’t need to be in the South East then what better opportunity to explore another hidden corner of the nationwide canal system?” 

Wednesday 21 March  | Andrew Denny  | 4.40pm, Wednesday 21 March 2012

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