This summer, let’s help keep our canals flowing by being careful not to waste water whilst boating.
Competing demands for water or a lack of water have dogged the canals from the very beginning of the canal age.
“Most canals are distressed for want of water, because either they are above the springs, or they are not permitted to derive a supply from mill streams.” Wrote an early canal commentator.*
Whether it was millers arguing with the proprietors of the canals over routes and water back in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the lawyers who drafted the Canal Bylaws regarding the operation of locks, or the engineers who developed ingenious water saving side-ponds, everyone associated with the canal and river network has been concerned to avoid a lack of water in the cut.
From the earliest days of 'Canal Mania', the number of boats using the canal increased beyond what had initially been envisaged by many of the canal’s engineers, requiring improvements to be made to cope with demand until commercial traffic reached its terminal decline after the Second World War. Examples of water supply improvements include the building of more reservoirs to cope with traffic over the Tring Summit on the Grand Union Canal and the installation of back-pumping at lock flights during the drought of 1934.
The long-range forecast looks dry, so if we want to be boating all summer long we’d better look after the water. With more boats on the network than during the height of the industrial revolution, all boaters need to work together to save water. If you’ve been on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal recently you'll be aware of the THRIFT code which sets out some simple steps that boaters should follow for everyone’s benefit.
Although we’ve only issued the THRIFT code in the North West it’s also worth remembering as good boating practice wherever you are on the network.
'Most canals are distressed for want of water, because either they are above the springs, or they are not permitted to derive a supply from mill streams.'
William Smith; On the Utility, Structure and Management of Canals; by Joseph Townsend: published in "The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, Vol. XX, July-Dec 1813" and referenced from this wonderful canal history website if you fancy a more indepth read.
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