Southern Water’s drought-combatting strategy

Sewage in the South East will be treated and turned into drinking water as part of preparations to combat a growing number of droughts, Southern Water has revealed. The water company recently unveiled plans to recycle waste water and create a desalination plant to secure drinking water in the region for the next 25 years.

The company’s strategy involves putting treated and cleaned waste water back into rivers upstream, allowing it to be treated again further downstream to produce drinking water. The planned desalination plant, which could be built on the Arun at Ford, will also let Southern Water produce drinking water by treating seawater.

“During the past 12 months we have experienced both drought and floods and the Met Office is warning there may be more extremes of weather in the future,” said Meyrick Gough, water strategy manager at Southern Water. “As our current water sources rely on rain during the winter to provide supplies for the rest of the year, it’s vital we start planning now to meet these extremes and the challenges ahead.”

The company published its plans on May 20th and has launched a three-month public consultation to find out what its two million customers think of the proposals. Customers will pay around £13.10 extra each over the next 25 years as part of the £88.7 million scheme, while Southern Water estimates its carbon emissions will increase from 213 tonnes a day to 225 tonnes a day by 2040.

Last year, the Farming and Rural Issues Group for the South East held a water summit for farmers, politicians and water industry leaders, after the region was hit by a drought which saw groundwater levels in some places fall to their lowest in over three decades. An Environment Agency report said a number of farmers had faced uncertainty over the availability of water in the South East during the summer.

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