The Middle Level Commissioners manage and control the main arterial channels and navigation within an enclosed catchment of 70,000Ha in the Cambridgeshire fens which relies on cell based staged pumping, utilising around eighty pumping stations scattered around the district.
Whilst pumping is critical for the evacuation of water during the winter months most often during the summer months water scarcity in this area of East Anglia, the driest of regions, becomes critical. The important factor to note is that as the system is enclosed water can be contained and even moved around the district. Also subject to availability water that would normal pass into the sea is diverted from the River Nene near Peterborough into the Middle Level during these dry months. This water can then be used for irrigation of crops but unfortunately the area is over licenced and there are periods when the Environment Agency require the Commissioners to reduce the amount they take from the River Nene, due to low flows and competing interests from Anglian Water who also take water from the Nene to fill Rutland Water.
During this time water becomes limited and has in the past led to a ban on all irrigation to ensure navigation levels remain above their statutory minimum. To address this problem seven or eight years ago the Commissioners introduced a texting service. This informs slacker (intake gate) operators when and how much water they can take. This then allows for the best management of the limited resource by ramping down water take-off when water is in short supply and encouraging water take-off when it is plentiful. Over the years the messages and the timing of the texts have been tweaked and the system improved and the feedback gained from users continues to be extremely positive.
of main arterial channels and navigation managed and controlled within the Cambridgeshire fens