The proposed North-South Aecom Canal project to solve drought and water supply issues has been rebranded as The Natural Grid and the organisers are calling from support from industry, businesses and individuals from different industries.

David Weigh is the Aecom Associate Director behind the idea of creating the canal which would stretch from the Scottish borders or Northumbria down to the South East.

Work done on the project so has demonstrated that the potential cost benefits would be a ratio of 1.8:1 in improving the water supply and securing it against draughts, whilst this ratio excludes the additional benefits of regeneration, freight transport, providing a route for High Voltage Direct Current cables, and leisure use on the canal.

Commenting on the £14bn project Weight said: “We’ve done a study on the cost options of various routes, so we’re pretty confident it can be done. We calculated for extra costs in urban areas, and when the canal goes below a certain depth we budgeted for tunnels, and above a certain height for aqueducts. So we try to avoid all those, while keeping the route fairly direct.

“The counterfactual option [of not building the canal] involves building more reservoirs, routes between river valleys, possibly even desalination plants, and measures to cut water consumption. But the existing plans run out of steam by the 2030s, while we’re dealing with substantial population growth in the south east.

“Meanwhile, the water companies are also finding that their abstraction rights are often not being renewed by the Environment Agency, which puts a squeeze on the water companies. And while no one knows what’s happening with climate change, the risk of drought has to be greater in the future.”

The biggest changes to the proposal involve the canal being 10 – 15m wide which is in line with traditional canals in the UK, as oppose to the 24m wide continental style waterway which had been proposed.

Weight expanded on this by saying: “We don’t want a waterway that would intimidate smaller craft – we want it to be desirable and not too industrial. Ten metres would be adequate in terms of water supply – we know that’s possible and pretty economic.”

Whilst there are obvious long term benefits of developing this kind of North-South canal system, unlike HS2 this project offers a far greater opportunity for developing along the route of the development which could have great knock on impact for the construction industry for many years to come.