AUTUMN leaves have been falling but not the much needed rain to re-fill the region’s water resources with Arlington reservoir only 30 per cent full.
As a result, South East Water is planning ahead to manage its water resources both this winter and, crucially, ahead of next spring and summer, when customer demand for water will rise.
At this stage it cannot rule out drought permits, which would allow it to take more water from local rivers to fill its reservoirs, or possible water restrictions next spring.
The last 12 months from October 2010 to October 2011 have been the driest since 1976 in the South East region, while the onset of autumn was replaced by a late Indian summer. October was one of the warmest months on record, according to the Met Office.
Likewise, the amount of rainfall in September was just 60per cent of the long term average, but was even less in October - just 30 per cent of the long term average fell across the south east region.
Customer demand for water has increased too – the company saw demand for water peak at 211 million litres per day in October, some 44 million litres more than the same month last year.
As a result, South East Water’s two reservoirs in Sussex – Ardingly and Arlington - are now reaching very low levels, with both just over a third full.
Ardingly Reservoir is currently 34 per cent full, while Arlington Reservoir is 33 per cent full.
Water levels in the company’s groundwater sources – particularly along the Seaford coast where water is drawn from chalk aquifers, and in West Kent and East Sussex, where water is drawn from sandstone aquifers - are also below average for the time of year.
Lee Dance, head of water resources at South East Water, said, “The unseasonably warm, dry weather we’re continuing to experience has delayed the start of the traditional period when rainfall refills both our reservoirs and underground sources, giving them a much needed boost before next spring and summer.
“Our underground sources in particular are crucial as they provide 75 per cent of all our water supplies, and rely on that rainfall to fill them up.
“We are continuing to carefully monitor the situation and are fine tuning our water supply network to move water around the Sussex area.
“These changes have helped, as have the very small amounts of rain we have had recently.
“But it is prudent to plan ahead and make sure we do everything we can to secure supplies for our customers next year, so that does mean having to plan for possible drought permits and water restrictions.”
While South East Water will be working hard to protect its water resources this Winter, it’s asking customers to do their bit too, by making sure any water they use is not wasted, and reporting any leaks on the company’s dedicated leakline 0333 000 3330, so they can be fixed as soon as possible.