A Statement From Affinity Water:
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 Southeast 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 we supply 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.
Weâ€™re prepared for droughts and we have a robust and detailed Drought Management Plan, which is agreed with the Environment Agency and DEFRA and sets out the ways in which we respond.Â Our Drought Plan is based upon clear â€˜triggersâ€™ which relate directly to groundwater levels.Â When these trigger levels are reached we enact a series of measures to ensure we 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 Waterâ€™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 we are 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 â€“ when rainfall typically reaches the aquifer deep below ground.
While we do not need to bring in a Temporary Use Ban at this time, we are asking all of our customers to consider their water usage carefully to help protect our natural environment. By saving water now, it will help ensure we can maintain supplies to our customers and communities and leave more water in the environment.
What weâ€™re doing:
Everything we do balances the needs of our customers to have high quality, affordable water with the need to protect the environment and ensure a long-term sustainable supply of water.
We know we need to do our bit too to conserve water and help the environment. This is why we have invested heavily to drive leakage down to the lowest level we have ever had â€“ helping us keep on track to meet our five-year reduction target.
However, we know we must do better and our customers expect us to go further, which is why we 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.
Our metering programme has also been accelerated, giving our customers visibility of their usage and creating more opportunity than ever to save water, energy and money. Weâ€™ve exceeded our target here with over 50,000 meters fitted last year alone, which means approximately 65% of households in our central area are on a metered supply with over 90% of households already metered in our southeast and east regions.
Our supply area includes around 10% of Englandâ€™s chalk streams, which are recognised as rare ecological habitats.
Weâ€™ve been working in collaboration with our local communities to improve the chalk streams in our area for over 20 years. Since 2015, weâ€™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.
We continue to provide supporting flows from our boreholes to help flows in certain rivers, and also work with farmers and other catchment stakeholders to improve land use and water quality. Our 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 our communities. We will have reduced the amount we abstract from chalk groundwater by almost 100 million litres a day by 2025 since the 1990s â€“ more than halving the amount we take from groundwater in the Chilterns to help protect chalk streams
However, we know we must do more to protect these globally rare habitats and ensure a long term, sustainable supply of water. We cannot do this alone. This is why we 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. We will be publishing our draft Water Resources Management Plan later this year setting out how we plan to meet the needs of customers and the environment in the long term.
Last year, we launched one of our most ambitious campaigns to date to help people save water. We 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 our 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 we saved over a billion litres of water. However, we are not stopping there. We are continuing to invest in this campaign, alongside reducing leakage on our 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.