Pennine Waterways News

Thursday 26 August 2010

Slow Recovery for Leeds and Liverpool Reservoirs

There is little cheer for boaters and waterway businesses in the latest reservoir statistics from British Waterways. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal's reservoir levels are recovering only slowly and there does not appear to be much prospect of the central part of this canal re-opening in the near future.

The four reservoirs dedicated to feeding the Leeds and Liverpool Canal's summit are currently holding just 13.1% of their capacity, which is 0.8% more than last week's figure of 12.3%. At this time of year British Waterways would expect these levels to be around 65%. Levels will need to rise to around 20% before BW can consider re-opening the 60-mile closed section of canal between Wigan and Gargrave.

While the two smallest reservoirs are currently around 20% full, they would quickly become drained if the feed to the canal was switched on. The largest of the four reservoirs, Lower Foulridge, is at just 10.2% of capacity and this has not changed in the last week.

The reservoir holdings as of 23rd August were:
reservoir capacity when full current holding   percentage of capacity
Lower Foulridge     1,557 million litres 160 million litres 10.2%
Upper Foulridge 442 million litres 80 million litres 18.2%
Slipperhill 170 million litres   37.5 million litres 22.0%
Whitemoor 658 million litres 93 million litres 14.1%
average holdings of these 4 reservoirs 13.1%

A spokesman for British Waterways explained that, although it has rained a great deal in many parts of the north, not enough of this rain has been falling in the Colne area of the Pennines where these reservoirs are situated. He said that this has also affected United Utilities' reservoirs in the area but, unlike United Utilities, BW does not have the facility available of pumping water from Cumbria.

The reservoir at Winterburn (capacity 1,270 million litres) is not included in these calculations at present because of BW's statutory obligation to supply a compensation feed back into the Eshton Beck (although some of this is being fed into the canal at Holme Bridge to maintain levels through to Skipton and Bingley).

BW is constantly reviewing the situation with all the reservoirs feeding the canal with the hope of re-opening the navigation as soon as this can be done.

The feed to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal summit was cut at the start of August, when reservoir levels were approaching 10%, resulting in the current closure of the sixty miles of waterway between Gargrave and Wigan. Some water has to be left in each reservoir to preserve the wildlife.

Foulridge Lower Reservoir - the level is usually half way up the stones. Photo: Richard Carpenter

Foulridge Upper Reservoir. Photo: Richard Carpenter


  1. your update is fair better than BW's own update on waterscape....

    shockingly BW are only proposing to provide another update on the 17th september. I feel BW's whole approach is one of denial (about the problems of lack of maintenance on this stretch of canal) and indifference to their customers.

  2. Thank you, Jon. I phoned BW to seek clarification of the figures. Without knowing the relative capacities of the reservoirs it didn't seem to make sense that the average of the four was 13.1%. When you realise how much bigger Lower Foulridge is, then it makes sense.

    See the item about algae - BW has suggested to a newspaper that the canal might not re-open until October.

  3. Tropical Storm Earl might get to send it's remainds to fill this reservoir with water and a little more. We had a creek in our back yard that was ten feet wide and bone dry and when a tropical storm came by it filled it to 30 feet wide and five feet deep. The Leeds and Liverpool's reservoirs could get filled by some tropical storm remains coming it's way.


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