The EA gave us a challenge....
The small radial gates at Abingdon weir produce waves that are safe, and therefore valued by Kingfisher canoe club and many other clubs, for training and fun.
However the clubs have no influence on when the gates are opened. That is up to the lock keeper, and the job description does not provide for the canoe clubs. So they just have to wait until one is opened.
The clubs were concerned that water taken by the screws could be water that would not go through the small radial gates, so there could be even less white water for them. The Environment Agency's response was to say that we had to reach agreement on the sharing of the water. They do not want to be involved, probably because they do not want any liability.
The flow through a small radial gate represents an income of about £5 per hour. That would be acceptable for the times when they actually wanted to use the white water, but not if it meant leaving gates open for long periods when it was not being used. But the big problem was that we had no control over the gates anyway! What was the point of making an agreement when we did not have the means to make it work?
...and we found a satisfying solution
The solution turned out to be quite simple. With the aid of some automation, we could give control to the canoe clubs. Provide a button down at water level that only they could reach. Push it and a gate would open (provided the upstream water level is high enough), then it would close again automatically after a set time. White water on demand for them, minimum loss of water for us!
Are there other weirs that could be modified in the same way? Maybe we will set a precedent that others could benefit from - it would be interesting to know.
The Environment Agency made it a condition of the licence that we had to make an agreement with them on the sharing of the water. So we have, and produced a joint report - click here.