THE River Ouse could provide clean, reliable heating to hundreds of homes and businesses in York, Government experts have claimed.

A map published by the Department of Energy & Climate Change indicates that the Ouse is one of about 40 urban rivers and estuaries that could provide large-scale renewable heating supplies to local communities through water source heat pumps, instead of traditional gas-fired or electric domestic heating.

The rivers and estuaries are said to be able to accommodate heat pumps with the capacity to each generate more than 1 megawatt of power – which is enough to provide heating and hot water to around 400 - 500 homes.

A spokesman said such heat pumps operated by taking heat from the water and feeding it into local heat networks or single buildings, providing a low-carbon source of renewable heat .

He said the map was the first of its kind to be published in the UK and was designed to help local authorities, private developers and community groups identify prime locations to install large water source heat pumps, by aligning suitable bodies of water with areas where there was a high demand for heat.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said it 'sounds like magic' but proven technology meant heat could now be extracted from some of the heat in the water to heat homes and offices.

“I want to help communities across England use our waterways for this renewable heat and this new map is designed to help communities, councils and developers identify the most promising opportunities," he said.

"If we can succeed on the large scale, it would cut Britain’s import bill and boost our home-grown supplies of clean, secure energy.”

Green York councillor Dave Taylor, whose Fishergate ward includes the Ouse, said: "It sounds like an excellent idea, and York should be investigating this form of renewable energy from water, rather than fracking, which would poison our water."

He added that he had already discussed the potential for using the Ouse for heating with Conservative York councillor Tony Richardson, who had an expertise in the area.

Coun Richardson, who is a water engineer, said: "It's good news. I have always said we should be making better use of the resources we have, such as water, to create renewable energy - and it's good for the environment."