The conservation groups have a duty to protect these. Given the expansion in house building, CPRE Hampshire tries to research what is going on and pass the information to you with suggestions for action we can all take.
Southern Water stakeholder conference and Vitacress Conservation Trust forum
CPRE Hampshire recently contributed to both these events. One thing that became very clear is how difficult it will be for water companies to meet the rising need in our water stressed area, especially if there is a drought.
Southern Water is one of the bigger companies supplying and treating water in Hampshire, with 711,000 customers. Their Water Resource Management Plan explains that across its region (which includes Sussex and Kent), the company takes 70% from underground sources, 23% from rivers and 7% from reservoirs.
The current information from the Environment Agency and Southern Water shows the difficulties being faced. Water supplies are taken by Southern Water from the River Itchen, but to protect its biodiversity, the Habitats Directive under the Bern Convention has recently set a limit to the amount of water to be taken from the river in times of severe drought.
Alternative sources must be planned in by 2018. So, along with the Environment Agency, Natural England, World Wildlife Fund, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the Consumer Council for Water, Southern Water found and agreed sufficient other sources:
1. A new import of 15 million litres a day of treated water will come from Portsmouth Water’s Gater’s Mill Water Supply Works. This will need a new pipeline which has been started and will be finished in a year.
2. A new 19km pipeline is also planned between the Test at Testwood and Otterbourne to provide the Itchen with more resilience during drought. It will be capable of transferring up to 45 million litres of water a day from the River Test to the Otterbourne Water Supply Works, where it would be treated and pumped into supply. This means planning applications to three local authorities.
3. To top up flows in the Itchen and reduce the likelihood of it reaching its flow limit, water is planned to be abstracted from the Candover Valley groundwater abstraction purchased from the Environment Agency for use only in a severe drought.
But things change. Environmental concerns on the Candover mean the Environment Agency has announced plans to lower its abstraction licence from 27 million litres a day to 5 million litres a day. This won’t supply enough for Southern Water’s proposed scheme.
Restrictions on the Test abstraction are still being negotiated (and there are still worries about the migrating fish), and Portsmouth Water currently only has a surplus of 15 million litres a day for the Gater’s Mill transfer.
This means Southern Water is currently unable to meet the Habitats Directive by the agreed 2018 deadline.
What we can do
So, future needs with less effective rainfall and rising demand are obviously hard to plan for. Desalination and importing water are both very expensive. However, saving water will help. Do what you can. Also, if you are responding to local planning applications for housing, do think about the water use and water treatment involved. Water companies always comment, refer to them in your letter, and convince your local councils to do the same.
CPRE Hampshire Water Spokesperson