Underwater robot is a game changer for reservoir maintenance

A new underwater robot, trialled by the Canal & River Trust on Carr Mill Reservoir near St Helens, Merseyside, will revolutionise future reservoir maintenance, the charity has declared.

Known as Valiant, the tracked remote-operated vehicle allowed Trust engineers and their contractors, Keir, to carry out important maintenance tasks without the need to drain the reservoir – retaining existing water levels in the popular lake for boating and fishing, and saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in fish rescue fees.

The work was part of a two-phase repair project costing more than £2 million to upgrade the Merseyside reservoir. The first phase included upgrading the outfall tunnel and the removal of an asbestos concrete pipe, as well as undertaking repairs and other safety and access enhancements.

The second phase involved extensive repairs to the dam embankment and strengthening its bridge to carry modern traffic loads. Two original valves, which date back to the 1860s, located at the base of the valve shaft were replaced with four new ones, complete with supporting mechanisms.

“The Valiant was developed in collaboration with diving contractor Edwards Diving Services and is set to revolutionise how we manage underwater reservoir maintenance, particularly difficult jobs like replacing old, worn-out valves in locations where it is too dangerous to send divers,” says Tim Brownrigg, the Trust’s project designer.

Brownrigg continues: “The Trust cares for 72 reservoirs across its 2,000-mile canal network so the potential reduction in disruption for local residents, water sport enthusiasts and wildlife is immense and, of course, cost savings are likely to be significant.”

“It’s been fantastic to keep Carr Mill in water for the entire complex upgrade project over the last year. Our top priority is always to keep local residents and businesses safe, so from time to time we do need to upgrade equipment, and repair and replace the infrastructure,” says the Trust’s project manager, Curtis Udogu. “We know people feel healthier and happier when they’re by water, so this ability to keep reservoirs in water during major maintenance projects will pay dividends in the future for everyone.”

The repair project embarked on the Merseyside reservoir in the summer of 2020 and will be completed this month.

Images courtesy of the Canal & River Trust

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