Hosepipe and sprinkler restrictions could be next across Sussex as drought worsens after snow

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SOUTH East Water is warning that this week’s snow and freezing temperatures have not helped to refill its Sussex reservoirs in time for the Spring and Summer demand. And the company warned today that restrictions on non-essential hospipe and sprinkler use could be on the way.

January saw around 50 per cent of the long term average rainfall and refilling of Ardingly reservoir, which picked up in December, slow down, with it now standing at around 42 per cent full.

Arlington Reservoir near Eastbourne is 75 per cent, due to high flows of water in the adjacent River Cuckmere, from which water is abstracted.

South East Water is also concerned its underground aquifers in Sussex and Kent are still showing no real signs of re-filling, with some approaching “severe” level status.

More than three-quarters of the region’s drinking water comes from aquifers which are filled by rain running through porous chalk and limestone.

Lee Dance, Head of Water Resources and Environmental at South East Water, said: “The snow which fell at the start of February will help a bit once it has thawed, but approximately one foot of snow only produces about one inch of water, so it won’t make as much of an impact as you would think.

“The frozen ground also makes it harder for the water to soak into the underground aquifers which also store our water.”

Mr Dance said that without prolonged periods of rainfall to bring all our water resources back to normal for this time of year, we now faced further measures this Spring and Summer to protect public water supplies.

He said: “We cannot rule out the possibility that we may have to ask for further special powers to abstract more water than we usually do from rivers, and also restrict customers’ non-essential use of water with sprinklers and hosepipes.”

South East Water is following its Drought Plan, including increasing efforts to find and fix leaks in the Sussex and West Kent area, carrying out maintenance at its water treatment works to ensure they work as efficiently as possible and re-routing water around its network of pipes from areas with more water available to allow the reservoirs to recover.

A radio campaign across Sussex is asking for everyone’s help to reduce demand for water and South East Water is promoting messages through its customer magazine and website.

Lee Dance encouraged customers to think about preparing for a dry Summer by installing water butts and making sure any dripping taps are fixed.

Customers can log onto www.southeastwater.co.uk/waterefficiency for more information on water efficiency tips for the home and garden and links water saving products and discounts on water butts.

Visit www.southeastwater.co.uk/waterupdate for the latest information on the water resources situation.