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Brian Hardcastle, 1921 - 2008

Appropriately for a hydrogeologist, Brian Hardcastle’s birth was marked by the great drought of 1921. He graduated in Civil Engineering at Imperial College in 1942, and after war service (Royal Engineers) joined the Thames Conservancy (TC) in 1947. His next 15 years were spent on land drainage and river engineering, including the reconstruction of locks and weirs for the Thames Navigation, dredging, and river improvements for flood alleviation and to facilitate new town development, and a short secondment to the Kent River Board for the 1954 North Sea tidal floods.

The Water Resources Act 1963 was the motivation for Brian to become a "Water Conservation Engineer", and be sent back to Imperial College for a one-year postgraduate course to obtain a DIC in Civil Engineering Hydrology. (The name of the appointment was rapidly changed to "Water Resources Engineer", as the Board of Conservators thought that “WR Engineer” sounded better than “WC Engineer”!)

Lord Nugent, Chairman of the Thames Conservators, had already decided that the TC would concentrate on developing groundwater resources for the augmentation of stream flow; so groundwater became Brian's postgraduate topic. He already had some awareness of groundwater, as it was always a problem when, during the reconstruction of Thames weirs, cofferdams were pumped out and clear spring water would bubble up from the bottom - especially where the Thames crossed the Chalk outcrop.
His next 11 years were driven by the requirements of the new Water Resources Act, establishing and operating a water abstraction licensing system, including the consenting of drilling and test pumping new groundwater abstractions, and analysing the results; establishing hydrometric networks for both surface and groundwater resources, and conducting a survey of the water resources of the Thames catchment and the London Excluded Area - including proposals for new water resources.
The latter included “The Lambourne Valley Pilot Scheme” (1967 - 69) to test the Conservators’ proposals to augment steam flow by groundwater abstraction. This pilot was later developed between 1972 and 1976 into the Thames Groundwater Scheme for river flow augmentation.

By 1970 Brian had become Deputy Chief Engineer (Water Resources); but after the Water Act 1973, the Thames Water Authority was set up (1974) and the Thames Conservancy became one of its Divisions. Brian became Divisional Manager.

During the following 10 years, the TC Division promoted and constructed the Thames Groundwater Scheme, Farmoor II Pumped Storage Reservoir and the River Mole Flood Alleviation Scheme. Brian’s primary interest remained with Water Resources. By taking the requirements of the Water Resources Acts seriously, and through his management, the Authority established a very competent technical water resources function, staffed by professional engineers, hydrologists, hydrogeologists and technicians. In particular, a very comprehensive groundwater monitoring network was established in all the major aquifers. This complemented the surface water network of river flow monitoring and gauge weirs. By the time the water industry was privatised and split in the late 1980s, the Thames Region had one of the most professional and efficient water resources functions in Britain.

After his retirement in 1983, Brian worked as a consultant to Rofe, Kennard & Lapworth, (involving a visit to Cyprus, to advise on the reorganisation of the water industry there). He had been involved in the work of the charity “Christian Engineers in Development” since 1985 and was one of its directors.

My lasting memory of Brian is of a very kind gentleman who took a great interest in his staff and their development. Time spent with Brian was always a pleasure.

V K Robinson