asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources what progress has been made in the studies of the possibility of damming the Wash to create a reservoir by holding back water from rivers such as the Witham, Welland, Nene and Ouse in order to provide fresh water for use in the dry counties of the East Midlands and East Anglia.
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources whether, in view of the present and prospective shortage of water supply in East Anglia, he will hasten the feasibility study of the water storage potentialities of the Wash and give this scheme priority over schemes which would benefit other parts of the country where the water shortage is less acute.
A preliminary report by consultants on the storage potentialities of the Wash is expected before the end of the year. The Water Resources Board has put in hand studies of the long-term water demand in the South-East and ways of meeting it. It would be premature to undertake feasibility studies, which would be expensive, until this further information is available.
Of course, any feasibility study would have to have regard to the effect of the scheme on the port of King's Lynn.
Sir G. de Frietas:
When the Minister considers these reports, will he take into account not only their technical recommendations on water conservation—which are extremely important—but also the arguments in favour of creating a large body of water for fishing, boating and other recreation?
Certainly. When I have these reports about water conservation, I shall have to consider, along with my colleagues, the other factors affecting any proposed barrage scheme.
I recognise the urgent need for water conservation in this area, but is it not important in the meantime to offer better opportunities and inducements to farmers and landowners to conserve water themselves? The expense of the scheme would be enormous and might create considerable difficulty for the growing harbour and port of Boston. Therefore, is it not important to weigh up these matters and offer inducements to people to conserve water, as they can do, and are doing in many cases.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We have to take what steps we can to encourage the conservation of water. I would emphasise, as he has, that any barrage scheme on the Wash would be a long-term measure. It would not help us in our immediate difficulties.