Lawrence Gosden answered questions from teenagers from Oscar Romero School in Worthing, Shoreham College, and Chichester College, as part of the EYE (Eco, Young and Engaged) project.
"The community partnership was set up by MP Tim Loughton, with the aim of engaging young people with the effects of climate change.
“Topics covered included Southern Water’s environmental impact and activities, bill increases and our support for customers struggling financially, how we’re tackling storm overflows, pollutions, and our use of renewable energy.”
Mr Gosden said the students had ‘clearly done their research’, and he was ‘particularly impressed by how passionate they were’ about the effects of climate change and their questions around ‘how we can all be better guardians of the environment’.
He added: “As a water company operating in an already water-stressed region, climate change is already impacting our local environment, and subsequently our operations and long-term plans.
“It was great to see how interested these young people are in how we’re addressing these challenges now, and how we can all play our part to preserve crucial water supplies and our environment for future generations.”
Southern Water programmes highlighted during the event included water recycling schemes, its Target 100 scheme to ‘reduce customer water use’, the rollout of smart meters, and its ‘sustainable and green approach’ to reducing storm overflows.
Mr Gosden said: “I won’t deny that some of the questions they posed were tough, but as our future leaders, it was really encouraging – we need to harness their thoughts, ideas and passions. I hope they got as much out of the session as I did.”
Mr Loughton said it was ‘great to see the well-researched questioning’ from the students, adding: “They certainly gave Lawrence Gosden a good grilling.
"Clearly Southern Water’s shortcomings, particularly about excessive sewerage overflows remain a high profile concern locally and this was a great opportunity for our young pupils to challenge the head of the company responsible head on and demand proper answers.
"He also gave various undertakings about the sustainability of water butts which are to be rolled out widely and full transparency over sewage releases and the EYE Project will be holding him to the pledges made.”