Southern Water has updated its plans on how it would deal with a drought in the South East of England. The plan is now open for public consultation and feedback until Friday 30 March, 2012.
The Draft Revised Drought Plan outlines how the company would ensure it could continue to supply customers with safe, healthy drinking water under extreme, dry conditions. It also balances the needs of the environment against the need to supply drinking water.
All water companies are obliged by law to update their plans every three years.
Southern Water submitted its Draft Drought Plan 2011 to Defra on October 1 and it is now open for public consultation and feedback until Friday 30 March, 2012. Southern Water will then review the feedback and comments and publish a response on Friday 18th May, 2012.
The most recent drought in the South East was in 2004-2007, when temporary restrictions came into force in Kent and Sussex.
A drought occurs when there is not enough rain to recharge underground aquifers, reservoirs and river flows, which are the main sources of water in the region. Droughts are naturally occurring events which are caused when there is an exceptional shortage of rain.
Every drought is different and affects regions differently, so the Drought Plan acts as a framework for the company to make decisions on how to best manage water resources and demand for water during drought conditions.
The plan shows how Southern Water has developed drought ‘triggers’ which are based on regular measurements of rainfall, soil moisture, groundwater levels, river flows, reservoir levels and the demand for water.
These are measured across ten Water Resource Zones in Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight which have different water resources and react differently to dry weather.
The majority of supplies (70 per cent) come from groundwater, underground rocks which act like a sponge and store water until it is pumped to the surface. The rest is taken from rivers (23 per cent) where there is no storage and from reservoirs (7 per cent).
All of these depend on rainfall, particularly during the winter, to refill for the next year and in particular for the summer when demand for water is at its highest.
If the ‘triggers’ for a drought are met, then Southern Water can make the best use of available water supplies by introducing drought actions.
These include a wide-range of measures which can be phased in, including a media campaign to raise awareness, Temporary Bans, leakage control and sharing resources between water zones and other water companies.
In severe droughts, water companies can also apply for Drought Permits and Orders for permission to take more water from rivers and underground aquifers and limit water supplies for non-essential use.
The Draft Drought Plan 2011 is different to previous plans because under new legislation, water companies will be expected to introduce Temporary Bans before applying for Drought Permits and Orders.
The Temporary Bans include restrictions such as using hosepipes and sprinklers to wash cars and for garden or allotment watering; filling swimming pools and paddling pools; washing boats or cleaning paths and windows with a hosepipe.
At the same time, Southern Water will carry out other measures to maximise the use of available water. This includes further leakage reduction, transferring water from a neighbouring water company, bringing un-used water resources back into operation and increasing abstraction in areas where water is available.
The Drought Plan looks at all of these options and when they should be introduced and for how long.
Copies of the full Drought Plan and Comments can be submitted in writing, by email or online at www.southernwater.co.uk/droughtplan website link.
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