EASTBOURNE is in drought and facing hose pipe bans, but water firms have this week reassured the public and government that plans are in place to maintain water for essential use.
South East Water, together with other water companies in the south east, responded to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman’s announcement that severe water shortages were looming by saying that essential public water supplies will be maintained throughout the summer.
In a joint statement with other water firms South East Water, which is responsible for supplying water to Eastbourne, said it had drought plans in place.
This came shortly after news that significantly low rainfall for a second consecutive winter had led to a severe shortage in water supplies.
During the past four months from October to January, the South East has received on average 73 per cent of the rainfall it would normally expect.
It has been the driest October to January period since 1992.
Together with dry weather in the preceding 12 months, the region has received only 80 per cent of average rainfall since October 2010 – a huge cumulative shortfall.
South East Water is also concerned its underground aquifers, which provide 75 per cent of all customers’ water supplies, are still showing no real signs of refilling and some are approaching seriously low levels.
Seventy five per cent of supplies in the region area come from groundwater-based sources and these resources depend upon winter rainfall to replenish aquifers.
Two consecutive dry winters have led to groundwater levels plummeting.
Some of them, according to the Environment Agency, are at record low levels for January.
River flows are also well below average and South East Water has experienced difficulty refilling reservoirs during the winter period.
This led to the company applying for a Drought Order last year, which was granted in December 2011, for the River Ouse to help refill Ardingly Reservoir.
Ardingly and Arlington are currently at around 45 per cent and 82 per cent full respectively. Arlington is expected to be full over the next couple of months, Ardingly may yet reach 100 per cent full.
However, the company says it is planning prudently.
Lee Dance, head of water resources and environmental at South East Water, said, “In the absence of any prolonged periods of rainfall to bring all our water resources back to normal for this time of year, we are having to plan prudently for restricting customers’ non-essential use of water by banning the use of sprinklers and hose pipes.
“While we are not running out of water, if the situation does not dramatically improve within the next few weeks, we will need to put in place the drought measures set out in our drought plan.
“Those restrictions may need to come into force as early as the Spring, in order to protect public water supplies for the absolute essentials – drinking, washing and cooking.
“Clearly, if we suddenly get a steady deluge of rain over the next few weeks, we may be able to defer having to make this decision. That’s why we continue to closely monitor the situation and, in the meantime, make sure we are well prepared as we can be.”