Video: Ever wondered how water gets to your tap? Reporter Amie Morrell tours Arlington Reservoir Water Treatment Works

When you turn on your tap, it’s very likely you don’t give a moment’s thought as to where the water has come from.

But an open day organised by South East Water at Arlington Water Treatment Works and Reservoir is set to reveal all on October 18.

Arlington resevoir tours

Arlington resevoir tours

The water company is giving people the chance to tour its facility and explain how the water reaches your home.

I went along on Friday (October 3) to experience for myself what the tour will offer visitors and I was amazed at how much goes into getting such a vital source to our taps.

But before the tour began I was introduced to the company’s environmental team where I was given an interesting talk about the extensive environmental projects the team has undergone to create a wildlife and fishing haven at the reservoir.

They told me how the reservoir was designated a local nature reserve in 1980 and a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1985.

One of their latest projects is to try and attract osprey to the area and visitors can take part in an Osprey Trail to try and spot the creatures.

I then met Kevin Clark at the 120 acre reservoir who is regional production manager for South East Water.

He told me how an increasing demand for water in the 1960s meant new sources of water were needed in the area and the decision was taken to build a pumped storage reservoir in Arlington.

The reservoir was opened in 1971 and now provides water for thousands of residents in Polegate, Hailsham and Heathfield.

I was treated to two videos explaining a bit about the processes involved in treating and testing the water and then it was back to Kevin.

He told me how Arlington produces 17.4million litres of water every day to supply 82,000 residents in the area and the company spends a massive £14million per year on powering its facilities across the entire region.

Then it was on with the tour.

We visited the river intake where during the winter months, under license, the company extracts water from the river and pumps it into the reservoir. It is then drawn out through three points at the valve tower, from the top, middle and bottom, depending on the water level.

It was amazing to hear that at that very moment, because the water was quite calm it was flowing at around 80 litres per second. But the company were not pumping that day.

But as staggering as that figure seems, it is nothing, when the river is higher after prolonged rainfall it can flow at up to 20,000 litres per second.

In line with the company’s drive to protect wildlife, a moveable fish ladder and eel pass had been installed to help eels and fish get back to the main reservoir if they are caught up.

Sadly we didn’t see any fish or eels using it, but it was an impressive device.

Next stop was the water treatment plant where I was shown how the water goes through four different processes to make it safe to drink.

First the water passes through an aerator which helps oxygenate it. It is then sent into separate tanks full of flash mixers which removes impurities by treating the cloudiness and colour of the water.

It was amazing to see how this forms a solid blanket which rises up in sedimentation tanks to trap the particles.

Each stage is continuously tested and around 45 scientists work around the clock to ensure the water meets the highest standards.

Sodium hydroxide is then added to correct the PH level before the water is filtered through rapid gravity filters.

To make sure no harmful compounds or pesticides remain, the water is then treated with ozone and passed through granular activated carbon absorbers followed by ultra violet light treatment.

It is then given chlorine to make sure all bacteria is removed.

Samples are then tested for purity before being pumped through a staggering network of pipes to reach our homes. After the process a sludge like substance is left over - which is given to argicultural farm land.

One of the highlights of the tour is seeing the old control panel which was once used to monitor water treatment.

It is like something out of a film and is a wonderful addition to the tour.

Now everything is controlled by an impressive computer system which is monitored 24 hours a day with specialist technicians on call during all hours.

There is also high security at the facility with the site being monitored 24 hours a day.

The tour is a great opportunity to see how water is transported to your home and raise awareness of how much the company does to it to make it safe for us to drink.

If you miss the October 18 open day, there will be another one on May 16 next year. To apply for a place on either tour ring 01732 375410 or visit

Access is not suitable for people with impaired mobility or children under the age of 14.