Southern Water responds to allegations by new Chichester MP over proposed new drinking water reservoir

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Southern Water said it is ‘looking forward to discussing’ its ‘essential’ recycled wastewater project with Chichester’s new MP.

This comes after Jess Brown-Fuller, Lib Dem, said the plans to pump recycled wastewater from Budds Farm sewage treatment works, in Havant, into a new Portsmouth Water drinking reservoir near Rowlands Farm have been ‘allowed to progress with insufficient scrutiny’ and ‘virtually no public transparency’.

The newly elected MP of Chichester said she was planning to meet with neighbouring MPs and local conservation groups this week to ‘reconsider the scheme’.

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She added: “Portsmouth Water has a very good reputation locally for providing high quality drinking water. However, trust in Southern Water among Chichester’s constituents is at an all time low.

Jess Brown-Fuller is the newly-elected MP of Chichester. Photo: Sam Stephenson / samstephenson.co.ukJess Brown-Fuller is the newly-elected MP of Chichester. Photo: Sam Stephenson / samstephenson.co.uk
Jess Brown-Fuller is the newly-elected MP of Chichester. Photo: Sam Stephenson / samstephenson.co.uk

"Some of my constituents are concerned that their Portsmouth Water supply is going to be mixed with Southern Water’s recycled wastewater.

"There are other hugely disturbing aspects to this project including the use of a contaminated waste fill site to house part of the infrastructure, the financial and accounting arrangements of the scheme and the lack of local oversight and consultation.

“Part of the reason why I secured almost half of all the votes in my constituency was my promise to hold the water companies to account. I will not let my constituents run the risk of dirty drinking water from a company which has already polluted our precious harbours, chalk streams and seas. I will be urging the water regulators and the new government to scrutinise this project thoroughly.”

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Southern Water has refuted claims from the Lib Dems that customers were ‘not informed’ about the public consultation – launched in May and due to finish on July 23.

An artist's impression of Havant ThicketAn artist's impression of Havant Thicket
An artist's impression of Havant Thicket

A spokesperson for the company said: “Plans for the Hampshire Water Transfer and Water Recycling Project were the subject of a public consultation in 2022 and a further one that is running currently. More than 1,600 people have attended the 12 public drop-in sessions held across these two consultations.

"Throughout the process, we have briefed every local authority and parish council within the project boundary, along with a wide range of environmental groups and other local organisations.

“We continue to work with all stakeholders, including local authorities and our regulators as the plans progress. We look forward to discussing this essential project with Chichester’s new MP.

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“Along with the reservoir, this major new source of water will play a central role in helping tackle the South East’s significant water shortage challenge. More than 2.5 billion extra litres of water a day is needed in our region by 2050 to protect the environment, cater for a growing population and meet the challenge of climate change. This means we, and neighbouring water companies, need to develop new sources of water to keep taps and rivers flowing.

“The reservoir, which is being built by Portsmouth Water and funded over time by Southern Water’s water supply bills, received planning permission in 2021. We are aware of some concerns raised about our plans to supplement the reservoir with purified recycled water, which are subject to further planning approval.

"This tried and tested technology – which is already used widely across the world – will enable up to 90 million litres of water a day extra to be taken from the reservoir during a drought.

“This will not only help maintain supplies with water that continues to meet strict UK drinking water standards, but will also mean we can take significantly less water from Hampshire’s chalk streams and help protect these rare and sensitive habitats.”

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The Lib Dems said the proposed reservoir at Havant Thicket was originally granted planning ‘on the basis that the water would be sourced from freshwater springs’.

"However, Southern Water has taken over the funding of the scheme and plans to supplement the water supply with its own wastewater treated using ‘reverse osmosis’,” a spokesperson added.

"While this new technology is used in a few other countries, particularly in areas with a shortage of fresh water supply, it has never been used in the UK before.

"This change of use was submitted by Southern Water directly to the Secretary of State as a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’. If approved and granted a Development Consent Order then Havant Borough Council, Hampshire County Council would have no further say in the matter, even though they refused consent and communities have voiced their objections.

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“The new reservoir will serve customers across Hampshire and Sussex and will have a much greater impact on the environment than Portsmouth Water’s original plans.”

Southern Water said the recycling project will follow the same treatment stages as desalination. These include reverse osmosis, where membranes with perforations more than 50,000 times narrower than the width of a human hair filter out dissolved impurities.

The water company said the technology is ‘widely used around the world’ – including in Australia, the USA and Singapore to produce water that is then treated to drinking water standards before being sent into supply. Find out more at www.hampshirewtwrp.co.uk.

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