European Investment Bank vice president hails Abberton reservoir expansion scheme

The expanded Abberton reservoir in Essex.

The expanded Abberton reservoir in Essex. - Credit: Archant

The expansion of the Abberton reservoir in Essex has been described by European Investment Bank vice president Jonathan Taylor as an “essential” investment in climate change adaptation technology in the UK.

Northumbrian Water Group chief executive Heidi Mottram and European Imvestment Bank vice president

Northumbrian Water Group chief executive Heidi Mottram and European Imvestment Bank vice president Jonathan Taylor at Abberton Reservoir. - Credit: Dougy Blanks

The Essex & Suffolk Water scheme, which is due to be officially opened tomorrow by Sir David Attenborough, has received significant backing from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which is the largest lender to the UK water industry, and the world’s largest lender for climate change-related investment.

The £150million project to enlarge the Abberton reservoir to hold an additional 15billion litres of water is the country’s first major reservoir development in more than 30 years.

The reservoir is also an important wetland habitat, with the expansion project having further enhanced the European-protected site for wildlife – as aspect which was of particular interest during the visit as the EIB is strongly committed to investing in sustainable developments which support a greener economy – and the construction project has also delivered a boost to the local economy, having supported hundreds of jobs.

Speaking during a tour of the reservoir, Mr Taylor said: “We are pleased to have supported investment in the impressive Abberton scheme that is a reference of industry best practice for water companies across Europe. The finished scheme can now help to secure sustainable water supplies for one and a half million people.

“Abberton shows how investment is essential to cater for a changing climate and can be developed with care. Construction has been managed to minimise inconvenience for local residents and the Abberton scheme has enhanced the unique biodiversity of one of Europe’s top wetland sites.”

Heidi Mottram, chief executive of Northumbrian Water Group, said: “Essex is one of the driest parts of the country, so to be able to secure water supplies for many, many years to come with this fantastic project is something to really celebrate and we’re all looking forward to.

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“The support of the European Union’s bank has been critical to bringing this essential upgrade to the region’s infrastructure to fruition. Being able to access continued financing for our major investments from the European Investment Bank has delivered great benefit to our business and our customers.”

The Abberton scheme is one of many major infrastructure projects that the EIB has helped bring to fruition. The EIB is owned by the 27 member states of the European Union and the projects it supports contribute to furthering EU policy objectives. It is one of the largest borrowers on the public international market and its strong credit rating allows it to borrow at the best possible rates and pass on low-cost long-term loans to project promoters.

Mr Taylor said: “Large-scale sustainable investment is essential to ensure clean tap water and safe waste water management. The Abberton scheme is a flagship example of the significant investment being undertaken by Essex & Suffolk Water that will benefit water users in the South East for years to come.

“The European Investment Bank is committed to helping UK water companies make the long term investments which will ensure they are best prepared to meet future challenges, including less predictable climatic conditions, as well as to increase energy efficiency in the sector.”

The Abberton project has raised the reservoir’s maximum water level from 17.8 metres to 21 metres above ordnance datum (broadly equivalent to mean sea level).

The surface area has been increased from around 4.714m square metres to 6.612m square metres and the maximum volume now stands at around 26bn litres, against 41bn originally.

Northumbrian Water Group plans to invest more than £1billion over the next five years with Essex & Suffolk Water on average investing £45million on essential improvements each year from 2015 to 2020 – a total of £225m for the period.