Reporter Susie Beever takes a look behind the scenes at how Yorkshire Water supply homes with water through the taps
“The first thing we need to do is filter out all the fish, litter and leaves.”
Well, it was nice to know that was Yorkshire Water’s first priority in cleaning the reservoir water for Huddersfield’s taps.
Reservoir manager Darren Lynch had kindly offered to show the Examiner around the water treatment works up at Brownhill in Holmbridge.
The idea was to see how the murky waters up at Digley, Brownhill and Holme Valley’s other reservoirs were transformed into H²O fit for a prince.
The answer is a combination of modern day chemistry and the innovation of our Victorian ancestors.
And hearing from Darren about what is filtered out of our reservoirs and added to clean the water was surprisingly fascinating.
As well as the rubbish and natural waste sifted from local reservoirs, Yorkshire Water do a meticulous job in making sure water meets strict standards and is 100 per cent safe to drink.
A naturally-occurring parasite called Cryptosporidium is removed from the water to prevent it from making its way into Huddersfield’s homes.
The parasite, which exists on the surrounding landscapes in rotting animals and faeces, can end up in the reservoirs after being washed down the landscape by rainfall.
The nasty bug can in extreme cases be fatal to children, causing diarrhoea, and eating away at our stomach linings when ingested. Charming.
“That’s why you should never under any circumstances drink water straight from the reservoir”, Darren laughed when I innocently enquired about the consequences.
Last year, locals in parts of Lancashire were told to boil water before drinking from the tap after an infestation of the parasite.
But Yorkshire Water are scrupulous when it comes to the treating of their water, carrying out 500,000 lab tests a year.
While showing us around the treatment works, Darren explained: “The entire running of the process is done prioritising people’s health.
“Our water is the best in the country - you just can’t beat it.”
Darren, who has lived in Huddersfield all his life and now has the responsibility of overseeing 135 reservoirs across Yorkshire, took us through all the steps that are undergone in purifying and treating local water.
The works at Holmbridge, which are subtley tucked behind an obscuring hill on Brownhill Lane, have been there for more than 30 years and supply most of Huddersfield’s water from the surrounding reservoirs.
Darren explained: “The water goes through three main stages before it is clean.”
Coming straight in from the reservoirs, the team filter out waste and add ions to begin the cleaning process.
Mud and silt from the water is floated to the top in one of the several cleaning pools after it is extracted through a bubbling process, leaving pools that look rather like a bath of sludge. Hot tub, anyone?
Filters then remove iron, before chlorine is added to remove bacteria.
Most fascinatingly, Darren says Yorkshire Water also add a chemical called monosodium phosphate which is known to cling to lead.
This means that when the water passes through lead pipes, of which there are still plenty remaining in Huddersfield, a protective coating is formed between the water and pipe walls so no traces of lead end up in our bubble baths and cups of tea.
Lead pipes are a 200-year-old remaining relic of the Victorians, and although safe are more prone to leaks and bursts.
Water is then stored in tanks across the town before relying on Victorian pipes and good old gravity to end up in our homes.
So there you have it - the story of Huddersfield’s tap water. Now time to put the kettle on.
Yorkshire Water supply 1.2 billion litres of water to homes across the region every day.
There are 31,300 miles of underground pipes in Yorkshire delivering water to our homes (the equivalent of one and a quarter of the earth’s circumference).
Many of these were built by the Victorians and are still made of lead.
Yorkshire Water plans to spend £13 million over the next year replacing lead pipes as old as 200 years with plastic ones.
The average person consumes 142 litres of water a day for drinking, washing and cleaning.
Reservoirs supply 45% of our tap water, with the rest contributed by rivers and underground boreholes, the latter of which are mostly found in East Yorkshire.