For the period October – December 2023 we pumped 80,812 Megalitres of water at St Germans Pumping Station to protect lives and livelihoods from flooding. This is the equivalent of 32,325 Olympic sized swimming pools.

This is the most we have pumped at the station over an October – December period. It is worth remembering that a significant proportion of the water pumped at St Germans has already been pumped once or twice beforehand via our Bevill’s Leam Pumping Station and/or by other Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) via a network of over 70 pumping stations.

In the first ten days of January 2024, we have already pumped 30,453 Megalitres at St Germans. We also pumped more in December 2023 than in the whole of the 2021/22 year.

For reference, the proposed Fens Reservoir may have a 55,000 Megalitre storage capacity.

This is a herculean combined effort by your local Internal Drainage Boards.

IDBs are small public authorities constituted of members of the local agricultural and land management community along with members appointed by District Councils to represent the non-agricultural interests within an IDB’s district.

IDBs generally set their income rates based on budgeting for an ‘average’ year of pumping and generally hold small reserves to cater for wetter than average years.

Proudly managing water levels in the Fens since 1862!

Paul Burrows

Chief Executive


Our response to OFGEM’s review of standing charges

We welcome OFGEM’s call for input into its review of standing charges. We feel that the Targeted Charging Review did not consider the bespoke needs and role of the Internal Drainage Board (IDB) sector within its concept and therefore its implementation has been unfair.

Here at the Middle Level Commissioners, we administer 29 smaller IDBs and 24 of which have electric powered pumping stations. We also own and operate St Germans Pumping Station, the largest land drainage pumping station in the UK. Across our portfolio of assets there are 67 electric meters and the standing charges have increased in total by 509% from £25,547 to £155,662 as a result of the Targeted Charging Review. The standing charge for St Germans Pumping Station has increased by 1282% from £3,915 to £54,140.

Paul Burrows, Chief Executive says;

“This winter is likely to prove a record breaking one for land drainage pumping here in the Fens with record volumes already having been pumped at our St Germans Pumping Station. We provide a critical public service that not only protects lives and livelihoods from flooding, but also protects key gas and electricity supply infrastructure.

The costs of pumping are substantial, and the increases we have seen to standing charges over the last 12-month have been punitively eyewatering. I urge government and OFGEM to reconsider their approach to our sector.”

Please see our full response.

Whilst the skies may be clear today, our drainage system is under stress.

Yesterday saw St Germans Pumping Station discharging 77 cubic metres of water per second. We have never previously needed to pump to this level.

There are still vast quantities of water within our system, being pumped into our system by Internal Drainage Boards and flowing into our system from saturated highland areas.

The weather forecast for overnight tonight is a cause for serious concern, with a worst-case prospect of 30-40mm. Even a more realistic forecast of 10-20mm will cause us issues unless we take further action.

We will deploy the demountable defences for the properties in Benwick as a precautionary measure during daylight today.

We will need to take the water level at St Germans as low as we can without risking bank slips in order to create the gradient in the system to be able to cater for tonight’s forecast rainfall as well as the existing water within the catchment.

For boaters moored in our main drainage system this will unfortunately mean you’ll likely experience levels fluctuating significantly higher and/or lower than normal. This will probably start to be noticeable this afternoon and evening. Please take suitable action to secure your safety.

Should the rainfall forecast materialise then levels will quickly rise and if the rainfall does not materialise then there is sufficient water coming into the system to stabilise the levels again tomorrow.