The concept behind this project was to utilise the water within Internal Drainage Board drained areas (the lower part of the catchment) in a positive way rather than pumping it out to the estuary. The water would be used by single or multiple users, improving water supplies either for public water supplies, irrigation or environmental enhancements.

Studies indicated the most likely site for trialling this concept was on the south side of the river – the Felixstowe Peninsula, where there is a currently unmet demand for additional water supplies from both Anglian Water and local farmers. Using data from Cranfield University, it appears there is a cost beneficial case for construction of additional pipework and reservoirs and known local demand for irrigation water. Anglian Water, through the Water Resources East project supporting its future water resource planning has been supporting the development of the concept and could be interested in utilising any water not needed by irrigators.

One of the key drivers for the project revolves around the refurbishment and possible relocation of the Internal Drainage Board’s (IDB) King’s Fleet pump. There are existing pumps at Falkenham and King’s Fleet that need refurbishment/relocation as they are causing environmental damage to the internationally protected saltmarsh habitat. More details of the outline of the proposed project, as originally conceived, can be viewed by accessing the Felixstowe Peninsula Project Proposal.

Click here to view a map illustrating the IDB catchment under consideration.

The first stage of the project was to assess the amount of water that would be available for use. The amount of water going out through the pumps was monitored over a twelve-month period and modelling undertaken to extrapolate how much water could be available for use in an average and in dry years.

In discussion with landowners we have established the total and likely seasonal demand for new water and likely on-farm storage capacity. Several landowners have confirmed their willingness to invest in the project and have sufficient capacity on farm to store the additional water that will be made available. Other landowners may invest in further on-farm reservoirs to be able to participate in the project in the future.

Data around the availability of water to satisfy demand suggests there will be sufficient in most years. For more information click here to view the Kingsfleet & Falkenham Water Availability Modelling Presentation. Quality monitoring has indicated that water in the Falkenham pump area is too saline to be of direct use on crops, but the quality at the King’s Fleet pump is generally better. The initial stage of the project concentrates only on the King’s Fleet catchment.

We have also undertaken some bird surveys to aid Natural England’s advice on how much fresh water needs to continue to flow into the estuary to support the wading birds (the reason for the estuary’s international designation). Together with Environment Agency advice re the need for fresh water to satisfy WFD and requirements for eels, the project has agreed to a minimum of 5 l/s freshwater flow in the Kings Fleet area before any additional water is taken for farm use. View the Environment Agency and Natural England Advice Paper.

Thanks to financial support from Anglian Water and Suffolk County Council, consultants Mott MacDonald undertook an options study, using the available data. Two key options were tested: a large collective reservoir (probably in the King’s Fleet area) with limited on farm storage or a small collective reservoir, possibly the King’s Fleet itself or the Delph, with the majority of storage on farm. An intermediate option was also considered but not modelled.

Following discussions about the initial report it was clear that a large collective reservoir was not a viable option, due to environmental, landscape and cost considerations. Thus, the option of using the King’s Fleet or Delph (pump sump) were further investigated, ruling out the use of the King’s Fleet as likely fluctuations in water levels would be unacceptable to the Angling Club. It has, therefore, been decided to utilise the pump sump behind the pumping station as a holding area for the water prior to pumping it onto farms.

Mott Macdonald also modelled the optimum pipeline route from the pump/collective reservoir to the landowners’ boundaries. Costs for the pipework and necessary pumps gave an initial indication of the cost of available water to landowners. The initial estimate was too high for the project to provide water to farmers at a viable cost. However, further refinement of the 18 km pipeline route and utilising agricultural standard pipes has shown the cost of water to the landowner (ideally around £22/acre inch) appeared to make this a more viable project. The cost of archaeology in the upper reaches of the catchment added considerable costs, and the current proposal being progressed is confined to the first 8km nearer to the Kings Fleet. The pipeline will be routed around any known archaeological sites of interest.

The key issues of interest to others trying to take a similar approach are:

  • The availability of water and the demand for water
  • The viability of the project in relation to planning/archaeology costs and availability of grants
  • Water quality (salinity)
  • Water Framework Directive and requirements for freshwater flows to support the estuary wildlife, eels, etc
  • The Abstraction Licence – volumes, charges, etc
  • Financing the project
  • Governance

The reports from these discussions, further studies and notes from the associated meetings to discuss decide on the preferred option, are available on the left of this page under Meetings and Papers.

There has been considerable discussion with the water users about the governance of the project, investment models and the sharing of available water. One model suggested was for the Internal Drainage Board to act as the managing body. However, it has subsequently been agreed that the landowners will form their own company with the IDB holding the Abstraction Licence.

A project manager, John Patrick, has been appointed to take the project forward to delivery. As well as finalising the governance model, he is managing possible grants to support landowners’ investment in the project and seeking necessary planning permission and other consents. The original timetable for delivery of the pipeline/new pumping regime by 2019 is now looking rather optimistic.

In May 2018, the East Suffolk catchment was announced as one of the four Defra Initial Pilot Catchments for testing new approaches to Abstraction Reform. This will assist the Felixstowe Peninsula project to overcome some of the licencing and regulatory challenges of sharing water and undoubtedly further raise the profile of this innovative project.

As well as providing economic benefit by supplying water this project aims to improve the environment – not least the saltmarsh which is being eroded by the failure of the Kings Fleet pumping outfall and the pumping itself. Water Environment Grant funding is currently being sought to undertake works to improve the situation.

For details contact Jane Burch at