Southern Water ask for more from the River Medway to counter drought

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By jayenolan | Monday, February 20, 2012, 11:32

With the dreaded drought word upon us, following the driest 10 months since the last century, Southern Water is making moves to keep our water supply flowing.

The company is requesting a drought permit from the Environment Agency that would enable them to extract more water from the River Medway. It's needed to bring Bewl Water - which supplies Kent - back to its operation level of 88%. It's currently down at 41% and the extra resource will hopefully lessen the chance of restrictions in the summer.

The reservoir had dropped to that level in 2005/6 when a similar permit was granted and Southern Water is, according to a spokesman, continuing to manage its resources carefully, with both a leak reduction programme and the installation of water meters. Water Strategy Manager Meyrick Gough said: "This is a precautionary measure which we hope will reduce the chances of us having to restrict customers' water use through the summer. We have applied for this permit now because taking water in winter is less likely to have any impact on the environment."

With Environmental campaign group, Protect Kent, claiming that the government has officially classified Kent as "water scarce" and The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) raising concerns over a supply that will be insufficient to meet the growing demand, due to climate change and population growth in the South East, a spokesman for Protect Kent said: "We now see the effect of this short-term thinking in the threatened failure of Bewl Water, which has a rated output lower than when first commissioned more than 40 years ago. With the addition of supply areas in Ashford and Hastings it is expected to serve a significantly larger population, making it even more vulnerable to drought events."

Should the permit be granted to Southern Water, it would allow them to amend the terms of its abstraction licence, subject to certain conditions, and they have been in close liaison with the Environment Agency to undertake comprehensive studies ahead of the application.

The government is currently holding a drought summit to discuss the UK's supplies, with England due to be worst hit. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman is hosting, with farmers, water companies and wildlife groups invited to discuss the groundwater levels, lower now than in 1976. Although Winter rain finally hit in December, January – a key month in the recharge season when stocks should be replenished – was drier, with the South East receiving just half the long-term average rainfall.

Before a hosepipe ban comes into force again (and let's face it, it will) why not consider a water butt? We haven't used tap water in our garden for years - and they're readily available from all good garden stores. Medway Council also sell them, via Getcomposting.com.

It looks like bath sharing could be on its way again! Or do you have any other water saving tips?

      

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