South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

Southern Water needs to hear from you!

This is the fifth of a series on blogs focusing on the Water Resource Management Plans for the water companies operating in the south east. To find out what these plans are and why they are important, read our Introduction Blog.

Blog Five: Southern Water

Southern Water provides drinking 2.5 million customers across the South of England.  It also provides an additional 2.1 million customers (who are supplied with drinking water by other companies) with wastewater services. Their working area is fragmented across the South of England, serving cities including Southampton and Brighton.

In this blog, we will outline their Water Resources Management Plan, which outlines how they will continue to supply water for the next 50 years (2020 to 2070), to help you understand how Southern Water’s proposals will affect your local environment. We will also highlight what we think are the key points to raise in their consultation to see the best improvement for our rivers and streams.

Their consultation is open until the 28th of May so make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to stand up for your local river. 


  • Every day Southern Water removes 532 million litres a day from natural systems. The more water we use, the more they take and the less there is available for wildlife.
  • With increasing population, and decreasing water availability due to climate change, Southern Water estimates that by 2070 they may need to source an extra 600 million litres of water a day!
  • This water supply is heavily dependent on groundwater sources; with 70% abstracted from the underground reservoirs that feed the regions rivers, including some that support our wonderful and rare chalk stream habitats.
  • Southern Water customers are some of the most “water wise” in the area using 131 litres of water a day, which is below the national average.
  • Southern Water treat 717 million litres of waste water a day. In 2017 they were responsible for 146 pollution incidents in the region. These can be caused by misconnected drainage from residential and business properties, when foul water from sinks, washing machines and toilets, is accidentally entering the surface water drainage system and flowing untreated, directly into rivers.
Helping customers reduce their water use means there’s more for wildlife. Wastewater can enter our rivers untreated.

Feedback for the Future…

There are many threats facing the regions rivers; pollution and the removal of too much water from natural systems are having huge impacts on these vital habitats. Some of the proposals put forward by Southern Water show a real positive commitment to a more sustainable future. We’re happy to see that providing “clean, safe and sustainable water” and “services that are effective and fit for the future” are two of the core goals Southern Water are focusing on.

However, there are still areas we think could be improved.

We’re impressed by Target 100!

  • Target 100 is an ambitious initiative to help Southern Water customers to cut their personal consumption of water to just 100 litres of water a day by 2040.
  • That’s 41 litres a day less than the national average and a 25 % reduction from Southern Water customer’s current usage (which is already one of the best in the area).
  • This is an impressive commitment from Southern Water. We hope this will serve as a positive example to the regions other water companies.

Southern Water should aim to invest more in sustainable sources of water – without delay! This means:

  1. Southern Water should aim to stop abstracting from our vulnerable chalk streams. 
  • Southern Water is heavily reliant on water from the chalk aquifers that feed chalk streams in the south east of England.
  • Chalk streams are globally rare habitats with only 200 worldwide and it is our duty, and Southern Water’s duty, to protect them for future generations.
  • This reliance on groundwater leaves their supply more vulnerable to weather patterns, particularly extended periods of low rainfall when the chalk aquifer is not replenished.
Chalk stream experiencing low water flows due to over abstraction.
  1. Southern Water should invest more sustainable water resources such as building and extending reservoirs.
  • Currently Southern Water’s supply is made up of 70 % groundwater, 23 % from rivers and 7 % from reservoirs.
  • By 2070, only 43 % of their supply would be obtained from groundwater – a huge reduction and great improvement – but still almost half of the water supply.
  • To achieve this reduction in groundwater abstraction, river abstraction is proposed to increase from 23 % to 30 %, while the proportion coming from reservoirs will remain the same, and instead 20 % will be sourced from seawater which is a very carbon-heavy process.
  • We’d like to see a larger proportion of the water supply coming from reservoirs which are a sustainable option and can provide multiple benefits such as biodiversity and recreation.
  1. Southern Water should monitor the effects of their many proposed “water recycling” schemes.
  • This involves taking treated wastewater and putting it back into rivers for later for reuse in agriculture, industry and households.
  • Water recycling on this scale could have unknown consequences on our river systems and the wildlife that call them home.
  • We want Southern Water to ensure they thoroughly monitor the effects and are prepared to react to any negative outcomes.

Have your say…

Southern Water has set up an online questionnaire to help you give them feedback on their Water Resource Management Plan. You can find it by clicking here.

Full details of their plan can be found online:

This consultation ends on 28th of May.