New water treatments works opens as first West Cumbrians receive their water from Thirlmere

More than 1,400 households in West Cumbria are the first to receive their water from a brand new £300m pipeline and treatment works.

Since 2015, United Utilities has been constructing a 100km pipeline to provide 80,000 households and businesses in West Cumbria with a more sustainable source of water from Thirlmere reservoir. At the time construction started it was the largest project of its kind in the UK.

A new treatment works, and two service reservoirs have also been built. The works at Williamsgate is capable of treating up to 80 million litres of high-quality water every day and features the latest technology.

The water treatment works will also be able to harness its own green energy from the force of the water arriving at the plant after it has travelled 30km from Thirlmere Reservoir. The site has been installed with a hydro turbine which can generate 80kW of renewable hydroelectricity – enough to meet 40% of the site’s needs or the equivalent of 175 homes.

The project has provided employment for more than 50 Cumbrian firms and injected over £52m into the local economy. United Utilities has also provided placements for eight young people who were not in employment, education or training and jobs for three apprentices.

As well as facing a global pandemic, United Utilities and its contractors had to work through parts of a national park and take into account environmentally designated sites, archaeological sites and urban areas.

During construction more than 400,000 tonnes of earth was moved at Williamsgate. The excavated earth was retained on site and has now been used to help with the landscaping of the area. The site was designed to merge into the natural contours of the surrounding environment and incorporates a living green roof to mitigate against any visual impact on the landscape.

John Hilton, Project Director at United Utilities, said: “To have the first customers receiving water through their taps from the new treatment works is a fantastic achievement for us. This is one of the largest feats of engineering we’ve ever undertaken at United Utilities and I’m incredibly proud of the work that has been done by all our teams and contractors to deliver it.

“Throughout the project we’ve thought about the local environment we’re working in and have embraced the latest technology to ensure we’ve delivered a treatment works and network that will provide West Cumbria with a more sustainable water supply.”

Previously, this part of Cumbria received their water from Ennerdale and other local sources. Ennerdale, its lake and the River Ehen, are host to protected species and along with a growing population it was decided a more sustainable source was needed and a number of options were reviewed.

All other customers who will be moving onto Thirlmere water are expected to be connected to the new supply by the end of autumn and will receive advance notification of the change.

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