The Landscape Guide

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Planning the landscape and environmental impact of water storage reservoirs

Many people prefer to live, and enjoy their leisure, beside water. An EID approach to reservoir land could provide many opportunities. Rivers and sea coasts accommodate visitors during holiday periods, but reservoirs are likely to be near urban concentrations, and their potential for uses in addition to water supply should be fully developed. Since only a few of these uses can be anticipated when the reservoir is planned, it is necessary to carry out periodic landscape studies of existing reservoirs. They are a huge man-made resource. The greatest development opportunity in East London is shut away behind the 3m concrete fences of the Lea Valley Regional Park. Investors might like to buy the water company's stock with a view to stripping out their underused assets.

Reservoir Policy

  1. Reservoirs should be planned as part of a landscape-wide development programmes for the areas in which they are set. 
  2. Since most old reservoirs were planned as exclusion zones, for now-obsolete health reasons, there is a major opportunity to develop reservoir-side land for other purposes.
  3. Reservoir New Towns would yield many benefits for society and rich rewards for the water companies which own the land.
  4. Reservoirs in towns could provide a type of recreation (ie water recreation) which is much closer to the needs of our own time than traditional urban parks.
  • Old reservoirs have new capabilities
  • Gathering grounds are a historic example of single-purposism.
  • Water recreation 1948-1981: Too little and too late.
  • Water recreation since 1976: The new danger is excess recreational development.
  • The drawdown problem: It is not a problem.
  • Reservoir planning: Reservoirs could become urban development zones.
  • Planning principles: Reservoirs should develop in the context of landscape plans.
  • Reservoir archetypes: Archetypes are useful in reservoir planning. (Wild reservoirs, Agricultural reservoirs, Urban reservoirs, New town reservoirs)
  • Reservoir parks: Water is inherently beautiful and desirable.
  • Forestry reservoirs: Reservoirs and forests can be good neighbours.
  • Recreation reservoirs: Not all reservoirs need be peaceful.
  • Children's play reservoirs: Like drinking water, children need to be safe.
  • Wild life reservoirs: Reservoirs can assist in habitat creation.
  • Reservoir archaeology: There are few opportunities to preserve a complete village.
  • Conclusion The huge potential of reservoirs should be subject to regular review.


Dangerfield, B.J. 1981. Recreation: water and land. London:Institution of Water Engineers and Scientists.

Turner, T, Landscape planning and environmental impact design. London:UCL Press 1998 Chapter 5

Dam and drawdown at
Bewl Bridge reservoir in
Kent, England