Re: Water Resources position in Affinity Water’s supply area

Rainfall over the last Autumn and Winter was less than the long-term average, which has resulted in groundwater levels in all our regions being below average for the time of year.

It has been the driest start to the year since 1976 and the Environment Agency has declared a drought for South East England.

Droughts are natural phenomena that are seemingly becoming more frequent due to the effects of climate change. Droughts affect all water companies differently, depending on the types of sources they utilise to supply water, their region and geography. At Affinity Water, the majority of water supplied is from groundwater.

During dry periods, surface water sources such as river and reservoirs are usually the first to be affected, followed by groundwater sources.

Affinity Water is prepared for droughts and has a robust and detailed Drought Management Plan, which is agreed with the Environment Agency (EA) and Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and sets out the ways in which they respond.  Their Drought Plan is based upon clear ‘triggers’ which relate directly to groundwater levels.  When these triggers levels are reached they enact a series of measures to ensure they are able to maintain a reliable supply of water during a drought period.

A Temporary Usage Ban (or a hosepipe ban) is one measure within Affinity Water’s drought plan that is implemented when groundwater  levels reach a certain level to reduce the demand for water.

Our groundwater sources have not yet reached those levels, but Affinity Water is monitoring the situation closely and may need to consider restrictions if conditions do not improve in the coming months and in particular over the Autumn and Winter recharge season – when rainfall typically reaches the aquifer deep below ground.

While Affinity Water does not need to bring in a Temporary Use Ban at this time, they are asking all of their customers to consider their water usage carefully to help protect our natural environment. By saving water now, it will help ensure supplies can be maintained to their customers and communities and leave more water in the environment..

What Affinity Water is doing

Everything they do balances the needs of their customers to have high quality, affordable water with the need to protect the environment and ensure a long-term sustainable supply of water.

They know they need to do their bit too to conserve water and help the environment. This is why they have invested heavily to drive leakage down to the lowest level they have ever had – helping to keep on track to meet their five-year reduction target.

However, they know they must do better and their customers expect us them to go further, which is why they are using new innovative methods and technologies, such as artificial intelligence and digital networks, to find and fix leaks faster than ever before with the aim to reduce leakage by 50% by 2050.

Their metering programme has also been accelerated, giving customers visibility of their usage and creating more opportunity than ever to save water, energy and money. They’ve exceeded their target here with over 50,000 meters fitted last year alone, which means approximately 65% of households in their central area are on a metered supply with over 90% of households already metered in their southeast and east regions.

Their supply area includes around 10% of England’s chalk streams, which are recognised as rare ecological habitats.

They’ve been working in collaboration with local communities to improve the chalk streams in the area for over 20 years. Since 2015, they’ve carried out restorations for over 120km of chalk streams and aim to complete river enhancement works at over 30 locations across 13 chalk rivers  by 2025.

They continue to provide supporting flows from their boreholes to help flows in certain rivers, and also work with farmers and other catchment stakeholders to improve land use and water quality. Their work focuses on river restoration, reducing the amount of water we abstract from groundwater sources, biodiversity improvement work and catchment management projects to improve the health of communities. They will have reduced the amount they abstract from chalk groundwater by almost 100 million litres a day by 2025 since the 1990s – more than halving the amount they take from groundwater in the Chilterns to help protect chalk streams.

However, they know they must do more to protect these globally rare habitats and ensure a long-term, sustainable supply of water. They cannot do this alone. This is why they will continue to work across industries, with government, regulators and our customers to reduce demand for water, reduce leakage, move water around our network more efficiently, restore rivers and bring online new sources of water. They will be publishing their draft Water Resources Management Plan later this year setting out how they plan to meet the needs of customers and the environment in the long term.

Last year, they launched one of their most ambitious campaigns to date to help people save water. They would like to say thank you to over 236,000 people who have signed up to this movement at www.saveourstreams.co.uk   to take on their personal mission to save water, with a little help from Affinity Water’s technicians who visit homes to carry out free home water efficiency checks, install free water saving devices, and give tailored advice on how to save water.

This is making a real difference and last year they saved over a billion litres of water. However, they are not stopping there. They are continuing to invest in this campaign, alongside reducing leakage on their network and metering, to work with our customers to save water and increase awareness to urge more people to join in this water saving movement.

Saving water can help with household bills and more importantly leave more water in the environment to help our rivers and streams weather this latest period of drought.

Please help spread this message to communities; we urge you to sign up at www.saveourstreams.co.uk

Affinity Water is updating our website with our water resource position on a monthly basis here and will make sure to alert you when this is updated.