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Jonathan Troke1
Jim Jenkins2
Ian Carter3
David Knott4


The Abberton Scheme is a 150M water resources scheme in the south-east of England
being undertaken by Essex & Suffolk Water Company to provide additional water for the
Essex Supply Area and Greater London. The scheme comprises the raising of Abberton
Reservoir and the uprating of the existing Ely-Ouse to Essex Transfer Scheme that
transfers water from Norfolk to Essex, thus increasing the availability of pumped inflows
to the reservoir. It is the first of an expected programme of water resource schemes to
meet the predicted shortfall in supply to the south east of England. With a project life
approaching 20 years, this paper describes how the scheme has been delivered to date,
including the promotion and stakeholder engagement process and the engineering design
and procurement. The paper places a particular focus on the works at the reservoir to
increase storage and improve the habitat for wild fowl. Construction of the Abberton
Scheme commenced in December 2009 and is scheduled for completion in April 2013.


The Essex Supply Area has a population of approximately 1.5m inhabitants and is located
in one of the driest parts of England. In a dry year there is a gap between the water
available for supply to consumers and the maximum predicted demand. This situation has
existed since the 1990s and work on achieving a supply and demand balance has been
ongoing ever since. From 1997 the focus has been on delivering the Abberton Scheme to
resolve this problem as well as reducing leakage in the distribution network and
educating customers to use less. The scheme comprises the raising of the full supply level
of Abberton Reservoir to give a 58% increase in storage, from 26,000 Ml to 40,000 Ml,
in combination with the uprating of the existing Ely-Ouse to Essex Transfer Scheme
(EOETS) to increase pumped inflows to the reservoir. The scheme spans north to south
across the East Anglia region of the UK. Figure 1 illustrates the location and scope of the

Project Engineer, MWH, Terriers House, 201 Amersham Road, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP13 5AJ
Abberton Programme Manager, Essex & Suffolk Water, Sandon Valley House, West Hanningfield,
All Reservoirs Panel Engineer, MWH, Terriers House, 201 Amersham Road, High Wycombe, Bucks,
HP13 5AJ
Project Manager, MWH, Terriers House, 201 Amersham Road, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP13 5AJ

The Abberton Scheme 951

Figure 1. Project Location Map and Scheme Layout

There are several interesting technical aspects to the scheme, some of which may be
covered in future papers. However, the aim of this paper is to describe how it has been
managed and delivered, with a particular focus on the reservoir works.

952 Innovative Dam and Levee Design and Construction

Background to the UK Water Industry

Since privatization in 1989, the UK water and sewerage infrastructure has been owned
and operated by a num ber of water and sewe rage or water only co mpanies reporting
to the financial regulating body, OFWAT.

Essex & Suffolk Water Company (ESW), who is undertaking the Abberton Scheme, is
the water only operating function of Northumbrian Water Ltd. Under the Water Industry
Act 1991, ESW has a statutory duty to supply all of its customers with a sufficient supply
of wholesome drinking water and to do so in such a way so as to conserve and enhance
the environment. All water companies submit periodic reviews of performance and
expenditure to OFWAT from which targets and water bills for the forthcoming five-year
Asset Management Plan (AMP) period are agreed. Following severe droughts in the
period 1995-1997 a requirement for each water company to prepare a 25 year Water
Resource Plan (WRP) was added to the periodic review process. The WRP is reviewed
by the Environment Agency (EA), the organization that manages the use and
conservation of water through abstraction and impounding licensing for the UK
governments Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

A Brief History of Abberton Reservoir

Abberton Reservoir is located to the south of Colchester. It sits in an area of subdued

topography in the lower reaches of the Layer Brook valley, formed by a 15 m high
earthfill embankment dam across the valley.

Dam construction started in 1936 but a deep-seated slope failure occurred on the 20th
July 1937 when construction of the embankment was about 2 m short of full height. The
slip involved approximately 175 m long section of the upstream shoulder and foundation
and took place over a 24 hour period. Back-analysis has shown that the reason for the
failure was excessively high pore-water pressure in the foundations resulting from, what
was at that time, a fast rate of dam building due to the onset of mechanization in
construction. Following the slip, the upstream shoulder was removed and the dam re-built
to a more conservative design. The dam was substantially completed in August 1938.

Initially, the reservoir was not fully filled due to the onset of the Second World War
(1939-1945) when the reservoir was kept 1.2 m below full supply level to minimize the
risks of dam-break from potential bombing. First-filling of the reservoir was finally
completed in 1947. The lack of human presence throughout the war years and post-war
years, along with its physical characteristics and location meant that the reservoir became
an important site for water fowl, resulting in it being recorded as a major bird ringing
station and receiving important ecological designations as follows:
1949 international bird ringing site;
1981 Ramsar Site: The UK Government has set out policies for the protection and
management of wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar
Convention 1971 that are broadly equivalent to a SPA;

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1988 Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): Abberton Reservoir was cited as a
SSSI because it is the largest freshwater body in Essex, with a water area of about
500 ha (1200 acres), and one of the most important reservoirs in Britain for
wildfowl. About thirty thousand birds visit the reservoir annually including
internationally important members of one species and nationally important
members of twelve others. It is also one of a handful of sites in Britain where
Cormorants nest inland in trees;
1991 Special Protection Area (SPA): Under European law, Abberton is a SPA as
classified under the Council Directive on the conservation of wild birds
(79/409/EEC) (the Wild Birds Directive);
The Reservoir is split into three parts, the Western Section, the Central Section and the
Main Reservoir as illustrated in Figure 2. The Central Section lies between two road
causeways and historically has been in hydraulic continuity with the Main Section of the
Reservoir due to the presence of a large culvert at the mid-point of the separating

Central Section
B1026 road

Offtake Pumping
Main Reservoir

Abberton Dam

Figure 2. Aerial Photograph of Abberton Reservoir

Water from the reservoir is pumped to Layer-de-la-Haye Water Treatment Works from
the Offtake Pumping Station located on the northern shoreline. Prior to the Abberton
Scheme the pumping station had a maximum capacity of 185 Ml/d (74 cu.ft/sec) but this
is being increased as part of the scheme.

954 Innovative Dam and Levee Design and Construction

The history and layout of the Ely-Ouse to Essex Transfer System (EOETS)5

The EOETS was inaugurated in 1971, following the construction of various

infrastructure works permitted by the Act of Parliament to allow transfer of
surplus water from the River Ouse fenlands to Essex, a distance of
approximately 150kms. The aim of the transfers is to augment the yield of the
Essex Reservoirs and increase supply in dry years. In an average year, between
5 to 15% of water supplied to Essex is transferred via the EOETS but in dry
years this may reach 35%.

When the EOETS is operating, the norm al south to north flow in the Cut-off Channel (a
man m ade river) is reversed by th e ra ising of the slui ce gate at Den ver, which can
increase the level in the Cut-off Channel by approximately 0.6 m (2 ft).

Initially, the water diverted at the Denver Complex is conveyed for 15 miles south-east
along the Cut-off Channel to Blackdyke where it is abstracted and fed by gravity towards
Essex through a 13 mile long, 8 feet diameter tunnel to Kennett Pumping Station, which
pumps the water into a 10 mile long, 6 feet diameter pipeline to Kirtling Green, where the
water is discharged into the River Stour. Water from this river is abstracted downstream
at Stratford St. Mary and Cattawade and transferred to Abberton and other reservoirs. All
elements of the EOETS are owned and operated by the EA. Rivers from which water is
abstracted are generally referred to as donor rivers and those used to convey the water
in its route from Denver to Abberton are called receiving rivers.

Scope of the Abberton Scheme

The Abberton Scheme was treated as a single entity for planning purposes but, in order to
describe the scope, it is simplest to break it down into the individual projects used in its
procurement. These projects are as follows:

Project 1 Denver License Variation: a non-construction project directed towards

obtaining a variation to the operating license as to the times and quantities that water is
transferred from the Denver sluice, to provide more water for the EOETS.

Project 2 Uprating of Kennett Pumping Station: a mechanical and electrical (M&E)

project to increase capacity from 335 Ml/d (135 cu.ft/sec) to 440 Ml/d (175 cu.ft/sec).
The existing pumping station comprises nine pumps installed in a 100 m deep shaft.

Project 3 Kirtling Green to Wixoe and Wormingford to Abberton pipelines:

Construction of 20 miles of 1200 mm diameter welded steel pipelines. The pipes are laid
through open countryside and villages with some complex river, road and rail tunnel

Refer again to Figure 1 for the location and layout plan of the EOETS

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Project 4 Wormingford Pumping Station: This involves the construction of a new river
intake works and 120 Ml/d (50 cu.ft/sec) pumping station on the River Stour to feed
Abberton Reservoir.

Project 5 Abberton Reservoir Enhancement works. This is the largest and most
complex of the projects, which includes the following:
diversion of gas mains, overhead cables and strategic water mains;
site clearance, including demolition of existing Wildlife Trust visitors centre;
raising of the main dam and associated modifications to the valve tower, overflow
and outlet tunnel;
construction of four embankment dams at saddles on the southern perimeter of the
raised reservoir;
raising and reconstruction of the existing causeway, to act as a dam;
raising and modification of the existing Offtake Pumping Station that delivers raw
water to Layer-de-la-Haye WTW;
shoreline reprofiling and habitat enhancement;
re-routing of the public highway, north of the causeway;
relocation of the existing reservoir inlet structure and construction of a new inlet
structure for flows from the new Wormingford to Abberton pipeline.

Separate to Project 5, due to its sensitive stakeholder interface issues, the construction of
the new Essex Wildlife Trust Visitors Centre is being undertaken as a separate project
outside of the umbrella of the Abberton Scheme although during the planning phase, this
was treated as part of the overall scheme.


ESWs water resource team identified the water supply deficit in the early 1990s and set
about an extensive programme of leakage reduction and demand management schemes to
mitigate the problem. However, it was established that these measures alone would not be
sufficient. ESW therefore set about extensive studies to assess options to increase the
availability of water through a major water resources scheme. Some 250 potential
schemes were considered for new reservoirs or for an increase of capacity to existing
reservoirs as well as aquifer storage and recovery schemes, various large-scale river or
canal transfers, and desalination options. In August 1997, ESW decided that raising the
full supply level of Abberton Reservoir by 3.2 m in combination with the uprating of the
existing water transfer scheme (EOETS) was the best option. A driver in this decision
was that the projected increase in the severity of drawdown events at the reservoir would
have detrimental effects on its amenity to wildfowl and hence a scheme that actively
addressed this issue carried major ecological advantages, as well as providing increased
resource. However, the raising of Abberton Reservoir is the first occasion where plans
have been developed that involve alteration to a SPA hence it was vital to demonstrate

956 Innovative Dam and Levee Design and Construction

that the ecological integrity of the SPA would be protected in the short, medium and long
term. To this end the following elements of the scheme were fixed at this early point in
the schemes life:
It was agreed that the water level in the Central and Western Sections should not
be raised to preserve a quiet, undisturbed area for wildfowl during and after
construction work. This requires the raising and modifying of the existing B1026
road causeway to act as a dam;
It was agreed that four col dams (col dam is alternative terminology for
saddle dam i.e. a dam that fills in a low area on the reservoirs shoreline) be
provided on the southern perimeter to hold the reservoir to an optimal footprint
and avoid inundating large areas of farmland in shallow water offering minimal
storage benefit;
It was agreed that the existing concrete edge protection that sat at a 1 in 3 slope
and extended around the whole eight mile perimeter of the Main Reservoir should
be removed and the shoreline re-graded to improve the habitat for birds. The
removed concrete would be recycled for use in the new perimeter road;
It was demonstrated that there were locally available clays, sands and gravels and
that these should be used to avoid the need for importing bulk fill for dam
construction to minimize construction traffic through the local villages.
In the submission of its first formal 25-year Water Resource Plan (WRP) to the EA in
1999, ESW demonstrated that the need for new water resources had existed in its Essex
supply area since 1993. The subsequent WRP in 2004 showed that this need was
becoming more acute as a result of increases in housing and population growth forecasts,
mainly driven by the Thames Gateway development in Greater London.

UK policy since the 1980s, as upheld by the EA, has not permitted the development of
many large water resource schemes and has concentrated on reducing leakage and
managing demand instead. However, by demonstrating high levels of investment and
strong performance on leakage and demand management, the Abberton Scheme received
the backing of the EA, in its 2004 National Water Resources Plan. This was critical to the
viability of the scheme and meant that work could start on developing the planning

In these early years of the scheme ESW undertook extensive stakeholder engagement
work, holding numerous consultations. The process of negotiating and acquiring the
additional, relatively small, areas of land needed to build the scheme was also undertaken
gradually over this period such that the need for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO)
was avoided apart from one small lot on the reservoir shoreline.


(2004 - 2007)

The Abberton Scheme required planning permission under the Town and Country
Planning Act 1990. The nature of the Scheme meant that the planning applications were

The Abberton Scheme 957

accompanied by an Environmental Statement as required by the Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) Regulations. A scoping document was prepared in April 2005 to
define the work that was needed to assess the environmental effects of the Scheme and
this was progressively refined, in response to consultations and information received
from surveys, assessments and the design process, up until submission in
December 2007.

A strategic decision was made to treat the scheme as a single entity and include the whole
scheme in one submission. However, planning regulations require that applications be
submitted for each discrete area of affected land and due to the gap between the northern
pipeline (Kirtling Green to Wixoe) and the southern elements of the scheme, two separate
applications were required. The process was further complicated by the geographical
spread of the scheme that spanned four planning authorities from whom permission was
required. Navigation through this tortuous process was achieved under the guidance of
environmental lawyers in consultation with a barrister of the Queens Council (QC). The
legal team worked in partnership with ESWs land agents, drawing upon input supplied
by the various environmental consultancies and engineering design team.

The planning application included some of the most comprehensive evidence ever
submitted for an application, reflecting the environmental and ecological value of the
landscapes impacted by the scheme. The bulk transfer corridor impacts the Ely Ouse
estuary, which is an SPA /RAMSAR site, the Stour estuary, also a designated RAMSAR
site, as well as the Abberton Reservoir itself which is the largest freshwater body in
Essex, and a designated SPA/RAMSAR/SSSI. Studies were required on the effects on all
donor rivers, receiving rivers, estuaries and reservoir habitats as well as the impacts of
construction work.

Outline design of the scheme was undertaken during this period in order to inform the
various environmental assessments. The high level of detail required by the assessments
demanded that this outline design was stretched to a more advanced level than would
normally be the case. As well as general arrangement drawings, the engineering team
provided a comprehensive Engineering Description document that gave a description of
the likely construction methods, indicative programmes, materials balances and a detailed
time-based estimate of construction vehicle movements on public roads and within the
construction sites. The purpose of this document was to inform the QC and to provide
information for environmental assessments, particularly for noise and visual disturbance.

The need for consultations with the QC and the timescale of the planning process was a
reflection of the sensitivity and complexity of the scheme, the large number of
stakeholders and the need to be prepared in case the scheme was called in by the UK
government for Public Inquiry. As it transpired, due to the generally positive response to
the planning submission, a Public Inquiry was not deemed necessary and planning
approval was received from the four planning authorities by April 2009. The promotion
of the scheme and in particular the public consultation events held during the early years
and during the preparation of the planning submission was key to securing a positive

958 Innovative Dam and Levee Design and Construction

outcome from the applications. The next section describes in greater detail the delivery of
outline and detailed engineering design for the reservoir works.



It was established in the early years of the schemes development that the proposed works
at the reservoir would give long-term ecological benefits as well as providing increased
storage. It was therefore agreed in the early consultations with the legal advisors that this
duality of the work was a positive that should be clearly communicated through the
title of Abberton Reservoir Enhancement Scheme as opposed to say Abberton
Reservoir Raising. The following sections look in further detail at firstly, how the
engineering for the main dam raising works has been delivered, and then how the
ecological enhancements developed.

Outline design, detailed design and preparation of tender (bid) documentation for the
Abberton Reservoir Enhancement Scheme were carried out by MWHs multi-disciplinary
design team, based in High Wycombe, between 2004 and 2009.

Abberton is defined as a large raised reservoir and falls within the ambit of the Reservoirs
Act, 1975. Under the requirements of this Act, all modifications to existing arrangements
that result in an increase in the stored capacity above the level of the adjoining land must
be overseen by a Qualified Civil Engineer (QCE) drawn from the All Reservoirs panel
of engineers set up by the Secretary of State after consultation with the President of the
Institution of Civil Engineers. As such, the outline and detailed design of the scheme
were carried out under the technical leadership of the QCE ensuring that the ecological
and operational aspects of the design were developed without adversely affecting
reservoir safety.

Main Dam Raising Works

The feasibility of raising the main dam was investigated during the early years of the
scheme. The first ground investigation for this purpose was undertaken in 1995 with a
second in 1997. In early 1997 work was undertaken to assess the feasibility of raising the
main dam by 3m, 4m, 5m and 10m and in August 1997 the option to raise the reservoir
by 3.2 was agreed.

Further ground investigation was undertaken between 2006 and 2008 to confirm the
suitability of the proposed borrow pits. Design of the dam raising works completed at the
end of 2008. The design is governed predominantly by the locally available materials,
stability, particularly considering the failure during the original construction, and the
constraints of working adjacent to an operational reservoir.

The dam is being raised by building up in clay and gravel on the downstream side of the
dam with wick drains provided over the area of alluvium in the new footprint to relieve

The Abberton Scheme 959

foundation pore water pressures. A new rolled clay core is tied into the existing puddle
clay core by excavation of the top 3 m (10 ft) of the embankment. The inner face of the
raised section of embankment is protected from wave attack by open stone asphalt. There
is a layer of fine sand crack filler upstream of the core and fine and coarse filters in
wall drains and blankets to guard against internal erosion. The arrangement is shown in
Figure 3.

Rolled clay core Crest road Granular upper Clay lower

shoulder fill shoulder fill

Fine and Surface of

coarse filters existing dam Wick drains

Figure 3. Main Dam Raising Design

The need to keep the reservoir operational throughout the construction period
significantly reduced the potential for construction works on the upstream shoulder.
Historic data demonstrates that in an average year the reservoir water level drops from its
Full Supply Level (FSL) of 17.8 mOD by about 2.3 m (10 ft) to approximately
15.5 mOD. This low water level occurs during the early autumn before recharge
commences in November. The design therefore allowed for works on the upstream face
and core to be taken down to a minimum level of 16.0 mOD with the acceptance that this
work would have to be scheduled for a fixed window in the autumn months and would
require the active management of reservoir water levels by ESW to ensure that average
drawdown conditions occurred in practice.

The risks from construction and modification to the the dam whilst it retains a full or
near-full reservoir required rigorous consideration. An external review panel of three
independent dam engineers was appointed to check design against good practice and
reservoir safety criteria as required for all large dam projects, following recommendations
by the Coxon Report, 1986 on the Failure of Carsington Dam. The review process
re-confirmed the desirability that finite element analysis (FEA) of the dam be carried out
over its entire life, from its original construction through to the proposed raising work
and beyond. The FEA successfully back-analyzed the original slip thus calibrating and
confirming the parameters used. The results from the FEA provided benchmark data for
the array of new instruments included in the dam raising design at various levels and
positions along the cross-section of the dam at three sections. The instrumentation
comprises inclinometers, magnetic settlement gauges and vibrating wire piezometers that
monitor and record performance during and after construction.

960 Innovative Dam and Levee Design and Construction

Having modeled the dam raising works according to an assumed construction
programme, there was a need to ensure that the reality mirrored the model and hence a
number of dam raising milestone constraints were written into the contract. These
milestones set a limit on what level the dam fill can be raised to by a given date with this
merging with the need to undertake the crest lowering and re-construction in
autumn 2011. These constraints have added a level of certainty that has also been
beneficial in giving clarity to the team to prepare and plan execution and supervision of
this high-risk element of the works.

Delivering ecological enhancements for the raised reservoir

Abbertons status as a Ramsar and SPA site and the need to obtain approval of Natural
England (the public body charged with overseeing the welfare of sites with such
designations) were the most important considerations during the planning application
process. A key enhancement was the removal of the existing concrete protection that
extends around the reservoir perimeter at a 1(v) in 3(h) slope and the provision of a flatter
and more natural shoreline. It was proposed that where concrete was to be removed the
ground would be re-graded to a shallow, stable slope (generally 1(v) in 15(h) gradient),
giving benefit in terms of habitat and erosion resistance. This also had the benefit of
producing large quantities of fill material for the earthworks needs. On the northern
perimeter, this fill was used to provide artificial headlands giving access to the new
Wormingford Inlet structure and modified Offtake Pumping Station and as backfill for
the granular borrow pit so it could be returned to agriculture. On the southern perimeter,
fill was used for construction of the four col dams.

The shoreline design was undertaken as a collaborative process between the engineers
and ecologists with the primary aim of demonstrating in quantitative terms, to Natural
England, that the raised reservoir would provide a better habitat for wild fowl than the
existing reservoir. The ecologists stated that shoreline areas submerged by between zero
and one meter of water are the most attractive for water fowl and hence the goal for the
design team was to design a topography that gave an increase in the total area of zero to
one metre (3 ft) depth zones under all reservoir drawdown (i.e. % full) scenarios. The
engineering team used a 3-D CAD model of the existing and raised reservoir to undertake
an iterative process of shoreline design to achieve this aim whilst still maintaining an
overall and localized cut:fill balance.

As well as the quantitative demonstration of improved habitat areas, the new shoreline
surfaces were designed to be more attractive to birds than the original concrete edge
protection. A variety of surface treatments were selected to achieve this. Areas at high
risk from erosion, in particular the dam structures, or the shorelines exposed to long
fetches that produce the largest waves were designed to receive hard protection in the
form of open-stone asphalt or asphaltic geomat. However, as much of the reservoir
perimeter is at low risk of erosion, natural shorelines were selected over much of the
perimeter. In some localized areas, the existing concrete slabbing is left in place to form
submerged wave breaking protection to shallow reed bed shelves. In other areas, bunds or
depressions are being used to improve mudflat habitat at lower reservoir levels. The

The Abberton Scheme 961

result of this risk-based approach is a reservoir shoreline that provides an enhanced
variety of habitats whilst providing engineered erosion protection where required.

The iterative process of developing the shoreline design was not completed until shortly
before the Environmental Statement was finalized in late 2007. Design development of
this kind, driven by ecological or engineering improvements or changes in stakeholder
requirements was not uncommon despite requests from the environmental team to
freeze the design in mid 2006 so the scheme could be accurately assessed. In reality, a
complete design freeze was not realistic and would not have benefitted the scheme. It was
soon accepted that robust assessments were possible using the best available data, with
the acceptance that some change was inevitable.

Despite the long-term ecological improvements provided by the shoreline design, there
was still a need to demonstrate that the shoreline construction work would not create
unacceptable disturbance to wild fowl, particularly the over-wintering birds. The
ecologists therefore requested that these major shoreline construction activities should be
constrained to the period between April and September and follow a fixed construction
path of west to east. It was also stated that this concrete edge removal and crushing works
should be completed in a single year, to avoid sequential years of high disturbance.

These requirements are examples of constraints that were written into the contract
documents as programme constraints on the contractor. Capturing all such constraints
was not a clear-cut process. The Engineering Description document gave a lot of
indicative information about how construction would be done for the purposes of
undertaking environmental assessments. Distinguishing between those methods or
sequences to be enforced on the contractor and those that could be left to the contractors
chosen method of working, and getting common agreement on these across the team,
required a lot of discussion.


Projects 2 5, the four construction projects within the Abberton Scheme went out to
competitive tender as required by European Union competition laws during 2009 and
2010. A complete detailed design was undertaken for each project (including reinforced
concrete drawings and schedules) and included in the tender documents. This is a
reflection of ESWs need for certainty to meet the commitments given to the various
stakeholders. Ecological requirements and programme constraints were written clearly
into the specifications included in the tender documents.

The projects have now been let under various forms of the Institution of Civil Engineers
Engineering Construction Contract. The variation in the conditions used is a reflection
of the differing nature of the schemes with Project 2 being purely M&E, Project 3 being
predominantly pipe-laying, Project 4 being civils and M&E and Project 5 being complex
and varied. Taking the reservoir enhancement scheme as an example, strategic decisions
were made to include the demolition of the existing Essex Wildlife Trust Visitors Centre
in the main reservoir contract but, due to its specialist nature and stakeholder interfaces,
the construction of the new visitors centre was procured through a separate contract.

962 Innovative Dam and Levee Design and Construction

Likewise, whilst much of landscaping works has been included in the main contract so as
to benefit from the availability of large plant and labor, much of the woodland clearance
was undertaken separately in the two years ahead of the main scheme under the
management of ESW, due to its environmental sensitivity. Early procurement of enabling
works of this type, and also the utility diversions, minimized the number of interfaces
during the main scheme but came with a calculated and ever-reducing risk of abortive
work should the scheme not receive the necessary approvals.

The reservoir enhancement contract was tendered on a target cost contract with a
painshare/gainshare arrangement to encourage collaboration. Whilst the constrained
nature of the scheme and the complete design has limited the potential for design change,
there have still been opportunities to challenge the specifications and achieve savings.
The contractors responsibility to produce earthworks materials on site and for the overall
materials balance has provided scope to optimize materials processing methods, which, in
conjunction with carefully considered changes to the specifications, has reduced costs.
There has also been a pragmatic approach to the enforcement of ecological programme
constraints, whereby these have been reviewed as work progresses and as more
information on the effects of construction becomes available. Information from bird
counts has generally shown that the number of birds using the reservoir has not been
adversely affected by construction so in some cases works have been allowed to start or
continue outside of the specified windows. Through this collaborative approach, value
engineering solutions have been developed to the benefit of both contracting parties.


The Abberton Scheme is needed to address a deficit in water supply to the south-east of
England. It is predicted that this issue will require further reservoir schemes in the
coming years. A lack of available sites for new reservoirs will mean that reservoir raising
schemes will be a favorable option in most cases. Reservoir raising schemes bring an
interesting collection of additional risks and challenges compared to new dams due to the
environmental and recreational amenity of the reservoir, the need to work around an
impounded body of water and the additional risks that this brings as well as the challenge
of preserving and modifying existing structures and making best possible use of existing
assets, whilst keeping the reservoir operational.

By the time of its scheduled completion in April 2013, the Abberton Scheme will have
been almost 20 years in the making. Considering the environmental and planning
requirements to be fulfilled and the large number of stakeholders it could have taken
much longer had it not been for a number of factors that aided its progress:

A clear demonstration of need

The Water Resource Plans and the Justification of Need documents that accompanied the
Environmental Statement gave clear evidence of the need for the scheme in terms of
water supply to customers as well as the ecological risks to the reservoir from a do
nothing solution. ESW demonstrated strong performances in both demand management

The Abberton Scheme 963

and leakage reduction and showed that it had studied all practical alternatives before
settling upon The Abberton Scheme. It is through these actions that the scheme won the
support of the Environment Agency and several other key stakeholders. Without this
support the scheme would not have been viable.

Investment in promotion and engagement

Time invested in promotion and stakeholder engagement prior to the submission of the
Planning Application meant that the scheme received a generally positive response from
the local communities affected. This avoided the need for a lengthy and costly Public
Inquiry process. This and the ongoing liaison and involvement of local councils and
communities through formal and informal settings has smoothed the road for the scheme
ever since.

Inter-disciplinary collaboration

The challenge of achieving collaborative working between the ecological consultants and
engineering consultants was similar to that often encountered between contractors and
consultants where the two parties see things from very different perspectives. They also
have their own pre-conceptions of one another and have very fixed views on the desired
outcome. However, regular liaison meetings helped to break down barriers and allow
good communication, encouraging the various parties to listen to each other even when
they first seemed to be speaking a different language. Where compromise was needed,
rationalization of the relative costs and benefits helped unearth solutions and, in many
cases, solutions that benefited both ecological and engineering goals were achieved.

Formalization of agreed constraints

Mutual agreement of constraints on the design and construction has been critical. In the
case of the design, ESW were clear to the engineering design team on features of the
scope that were not up for discussion, such as the non-raising of the Central Section. This
avoided abortive work in developing unacceptable options. In the case of construction,
writing the constraints clearly into the documentation has allowed them to be properly
planned and programmed, ensuring that these have not caused disproportionate cost or
delay. Many of the contractual construction constraints have been open to discussion and,
in some cases have been relaxed since contract award. Any such amendments have
generally been based on pragmatism and it should also be noted that continuity of staff in
the delivery team has been beneficial in ensuring that the history of the various
constraints has been well understood and that these have been reviewed and relaxed only
when appropriate.

A flexible approach to procurement

In its early years the scheme was considered as three elements: the Denver license
variation, the transfer upgrade and the reservoir works. For planning purposes the scheme
was treated as a single entity to avoid the risk of obtaining permission for some parts of

964 Innovative Dam and Levee Design and Construction

the scheme and not others. For design and construction there was an inevitable need to
deliver the scheme in components and to consider the phasing and packaging of these
various elements. The flexible procurement strategy has allowed individual components
to be procured in the way best suited to the technical nature of the work and the
complexity of the constraints or stakeholder requirements.


The authors would like to acknowledge the hard work of the teams at NWL, ESW, Entec,
MWH, PBA, RPS, BLP, Cambridge Ecology, David Hill Ecology and Environment,
GCG, Atkins, Carillion and EC Harris who have been engaged on this project.


Reservoir Enhancement Engineering Description, MWH, December 2007

The Abberton Schem e Environmental Stat ement Non-Technical Summ ary, Entec,
December 2007

The Abberton Schem e Environmental S tatement Appendix B-1 Justification of

Need, ESW, September 2007

The Abberton Scheme Study to Inform an Appropriate Assessment, David Hill Ecology
and Environment, December 2007

Geotechnical Investigations at Abberton Da m in Essex, French, W oolgar and Saynor,

Dams 2000, published by BDS.

Failure of Carsington Dam, R. E Coxon, 1986 published by HMSO

The Abberton Scheme 965