£35m could be pumped into Heigham waterworks to secure future supply in the city

An artists impression of how the new ultrafiltration submerged membrane plant at Heigham water treat

An artists impression of how the new ultrafiltration submerged membrane plant at Heigham water treatment works will look - Credit: Archant

A shake up of the water system in the pipeline has led Anglian Water to pump £35m into the future of the city supply to ensure our taps still flow in three years time.

Thw waterworks - the school and the former yoth hostel can be seen at the top of the picture.MUST CR

Thw waterworks - the school and the former yoth hostel can be seen at the top of the picture.MUST CREDIT MIKE PAGE.

Early details of plans to redesign the system at the company's Heigham water treatment plant on Waterworks Road have been revealed.

Since around 1850, water has been drawn from the Costessey Pits, treated, and brought to the plant at Heigham.

But a drive to maintain water levels and protect the ecology of the Wensum means a new approach is needed.

Anglian Water currently provides more than 100,000 homes and businesses in the city with water and sewage services from Heigham, circulating up to 46,000 litres every day.

Around 61pc of the water supply in Norwich comes from Heigham, and after the development it would be the largest plant of its type in Europe.

But in April of next year businesses will have the ability to change water provider, and by March 2019, new restrictions are being brought into water abstraction by the Environment Agency to protect sustainable water flows.

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A new 'stepped' licence means Anglian Water would no longer be able to draw the bulk of its water from Costessey Pits, where it has for the last 150 years.

'We all take for granted we turn on the tap and water is there, but there is tonnes of infrastructure required,' said Chris Hayton, public affairs lead with Anglian Water. 'We need to make sure we have sustainable flows from the River Wensum.'

The plan for a new ultra-filtration submerged membrane plant would 'secure future water supply in the city,' added Steve Watton, project lead for strategic projects with Anglian Water.

'The quality of the water at Costessey is pretty good and pretty stable, but due to the requirements for sustainable flows in the Wensum between Costessey and Heigham, our abstraction at Costessey will be restricted from March 2019,' he said.

'That means we will have a greater reliance on abstraction directly at the works at Heigham, and that is quite dynamic. It can turn from a calm, clean river to a raging current of muddy water within hours. The treatment works will have to deal with those dynamic flows but we still have to maintain demand.

'The whole point is we can carry on. We are planning to maintain supply irrespective of the river water quality and to allow for growth in the future. 'The future abstraction licence will only allow us to abstract from certain levels of water, and by not abstracting at Costessey the river level will be much higher and more sustainable.'

Challenges to water supply

Representatives from Anglian Water today told Norwich City Council's planning committee any planning application for the site would not impede the view of local residents, and once work is complete there would be no change to the traffic activity on site.

'Looking at some of the broader challenges and the reasons we have to look at this scheme, the first is housing and population growth,' said Mr Hayton. 'In Norwich we are looking a population increase of a quarter by 2024, that's a lot of extra people who will need to be connected to water.

'As of April, the water retail market is opening up so any [business] can choose their water supplier. It is the biggest shake-up of the industry since privatisation in 1989. The key priority is to secure our service and maintain high water quality for 98,000 properties across the city.'

A competition may be launched with local school pupils to name the new building, and a planning application is expected to be submitted by next February.

The company has a view to begin construction by August and have the membrane plant commissioned and in use by September 2018, with a deadline of March 2019.