South East Water to protect Ardingly Reservoir against worsening drought

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SOUTH East Water is taking steps to protect Ardingly Reservoir and secure future water supplies for customers in Sussex as a result of a worsening drought situation.

The Company has applied to Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) for special permission to temporarily change the terms of its licence, which allows it to abstract a set amount of water from the River Ouse.

If granted by the Secretary of State, the Drought Order would allow the Company to immediately reduce the minimum flow in the River Ouse, below its Barcombe Water Treatment Works, from 20 million litres a day, to five million litres per day, for six months only.

That would help “slow down” the rate of water being drawn off at Ardingly Reservoir, enabling it to be re-filled more quickly this winter, to help secure customers’ supplies ahead of next spring and summer.

The amount of usable water left in Ardingly Reservoir is currently the equivalent of two months’ worth of available water without any rainfall. This reservoir is a strategic water resource which helps serve more than 65,000 homes across large parts of East and West Sussex.

The Company has already undertaken comprehensive environmental studies to support the application, to ensure any short term impacts on the river environment are minimised.

The Order would also ensure the River Ouse environment can be better protected during warmer, drier weather next year too, by taking the water now when it is less harmful to the environment.

Lee Dance, Head of Water Resources and Environmental for South East Water, said: “Faced with a worsening drought situation, and with no sign of significant rainfall and customer demand for water continuing, it is vital we take immediate steps to protect Ardingly Reservoir and our customers’ water supplies.

“Due to the time of year, the short-term impacts on the water environment in the River Ouse are expected to be minimal. Nevertheless we have put in place a number of measures to minimise this impact. We also continue to work with the Environment Agency and local environmental groups too.”