Clay compaction trials for Abingdon reservoir

CGI of the planned reservoir

Thames Water has handed Costain a contract to test the ground for what it calls its southeast strategic reservoir option, or SESRO, a 150 million cubic metre reservoir that it wants to build near Abingdon.

The work will see Costain conduct clay compaction trials to understand the ground conditions at the proposed site. Within the proposed reservoir footprint, on land owned by Thames Water, three test embankments will be built, each approximately 50 metres long, 20 metres wide, and up to three metres high, using the same plant and methodology as the proposed reservoir embankments. Geologists will then determine the performance of the Kimmeridge clay under different compaction conditions. The data gathered will have a direct impact on the reservoir embankment design and construction methodology. 

Costain has also provided constructability advice to inform Thames Water’s design proposals for the new reservoir. Costain provided design, construction and sequencing recommendations for significant elements of the project, including the embankment, tunnelling and the rail siding from the Great Western Mainline, which runs to the south of the proposed site. 

In addition, Costain will also provide safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) assurance and act as a logistical hub for all ground and environmental investigations, including archaeological assessments on the site.

The clay compaction trials begin this summer and are expected to take between six and 12 months to complete, depending on weather conditions. At the end of the project, all land will be restored to its original state. 

Graham Sugrue, framework director at Costain, said: “The UK needs to upgrade its water infrastructure to meet increasing demand and remain resilient in the face of climate change. Working with Thames Water to help it develop a reservoir that will serve around 15 million people across the southeast is a huge honour. 

“This is a project that will see our customer benefit from the breadth and depth of Costain’s capabilities. Our construction and infrastructure experts in water, road and rail, in addition to our environmental, geological and archaeological experts, will work together to provide Thames Water with the information they need to secure government approval and a development consent order.” 

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