Environmental campaigners fear 'many unintended consequences' for Sussex if water recycling plan goes ahead

Environmental campaigners fear irreversible damage if Southern Water’s water recycling plan on the south coast goes ahead.

Southern Water is collaborating with Portsmouth Water to develop a new £340 million reservoir at Havant Thicket as a ‘strategic water resource’ for the South East.

The reservoir would be built on grassland next to Havant Thicket in Hampshire. Southern Water said it would create a ‘new green leisure facility’ for local communities, as well as providing ‘reliable supplies for the water-stressed South East’.

It would be the first new reservoir to be built in the South East since the 1970s and is expected to take ten years to build.

Southern Water intends to use the future spring fed water of Portsmouth Water’s new Havant Thicket Reservoir to store its recycled water using a process called reverse osmosis.

The recycled water will come from the sewage treatment works of Budds Farm.

"This process using treated effluent has never been done before in the UK – it is a forever change,” said Libby Alexander, on behalf of the Save Our South Coast Alliance.

“It involves huge construction which will costs billions and will impact the environment perhaps beyond repair. There are alternatives but these are not being considered by Southern Water.

“There will be many unintended consequences such as: This water will also be used for all the food production industries especially horticulture.”

Treated wastewater leaving Budds Farm Wastewater Treatment Works, will – instead of being released into the environment – be immediately recycled, Southern Water said. Then this ‘purified recycled water’ will be sent to Havant Thicket reservoir, increasing water levels so it can later be abstracted and again treated to become drinking water.

Whilst the proposal will affect the original customer base of Portsmouth Water it will, under this new development, be enlarged further north to Crawley.

Libby added: “It is of huge consequence to everyone and what is more will impact future generations. Once done, nothing about it can be undone.

“We – on the Chichester, West Sussex side of the Hampshire border were not involved therefore not informed of this project. It is only now at this late date are we in possession of the facts of Southern Water’s intentions over the future of our drinking water.

"Go into the website of Havant Matters you will find the all important points on how to send in your concerns over this whole project. All objections MUST be received by Tuesday, July 23rd.

“This is about your every day drinking water and that of your children and grandchildren.”

Southern Water has issued a statement in response to the concerns raised.

A spokesman said: “More than 2.5 billion extra litres of water a day is needed in the South East by 2050 – we face water shortages in our region unless urgent action is taken.

“Reducing leaks and improving water efficiency will only get us so far. Large, new sources of water, such as reservoirs and water recycling, are needed to keep taps and rivers flowing.

“Water recycling has been used around the world successfully for more than 40 years, and we are one of several UK water companies planning for its introduction.

"This advanced treatment produces sustainable supply of purified recycled water that is then released into the environment safely, before being treated again to meet strict drinking water standards.”

Portsmouth Water’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Taylor, also provided a statement.

He said: “Water is scarce in the South-East, with the region officially classed by the Environment Agency as ‘water stressed’. Yet the impacts of climate change and population growth are increasing, and there is a need to leave more water in the environment to benefit nature.

“Our neighbour, Southern Water, has agreed to take less water from world-renowned chalk streams, the River Test and the River Itchen in Hampshire. Whilst this is the right thing to do, it will leave the company short of nearly 200 million litres per day in periods of drought.

“We’re a community-orientated company and want to help our neighbour to supply its customers with water. We’re already building the new Havant Thicket Reservoir, and filling it with surplus water from the local springs in Bedhampton. This will enable us to share 21 million litres per day with Southern Water. However, there’s another potential option, which would allow the reservoir to supply an extra 90 million litres per day. It involves recycling treated wastewater, using tried and tested technology.

“Water recycling has already been used successfully in many other countries for decades and provides a safe source of drinking water, according to the Drinking Water Inspectorate - the independent regulator for drinking water quality standards in England and Wales. Portsmouth Water customers would only receive water from the reservoir in drought and emergency conditions, the remainder of the time, their water would come from our usual sources.

“It’s important to be aware that Southern Water’s water recycling scheme is separate from the current, approved plans to fill Havant Thicket Reservoir with spring water and is subject to further consultation and planning approvals. Southern Water consulted on these plans in 2022 and is running a further consultation until July 23. We would encourage anyone interested in the proposals to take a look and have their say.”

To have your say on the proposals, by July 23, email [email protected].

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