Dry weather fears of Britain’s early ‘industrial’ canal network

Harvey-Fishenden, A ORCID: 0000-0003-0997-4170, Macdonald, N ORCID: 0000-0003-0350-7096 and Bowen, JP
(2019) Dry weather fears of Britain’s early ‘industrial’ canal network. Regional Environmental Change.

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© 2019, The Author(s). The first large-scale water supply in Britain was not for potable domestic supplies, but for the canal network, the arteries of the industrial revolution. This paper examines how episodes of dry weather in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, reconstructed from early instrumental sources, impacted the developing canal network. Analysis reveals how a frequent lack of preparedness for even relatively minor drought events resulted in conflict between water users, with potentially serious socio-economic consequences. The economic pressure of compensating other users for loss or reduction of their water supply resulted in canal companies investing in technologies and management techniques that continue to be used today as drought mitigation strategies, such as the building of large-capacity reservoirs and groundwater abstraction. This period represents a key technological milestone in the development of the modern water supply systems, contextualising current challenges faced by the water industry in responding to drought events. Although the failure of the British canal system no longer has serious economic impacts, themes emerge from this research which are as relevant for water supplies today as they were in the eighteenth century, such as issues around water rights and the value of preparing for potential future extreme weather scenarios. A newly reconstructed composite precipitation series for Chatsworth House is presented (1760–present). Through comparing weather records within the archives of canal companies and their competitors for water supplies, historical insight can be gained into the possible far-reaching societal impacts of drought.

Item Type: Article
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2019 14:30
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2022 12:28
DOI: 10.1007/s10113-019-01524-5
Open Access URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10113-0...
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3055635

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