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Serious Water Stress and inadequate failing water structure

26th June 2023

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times, 22 June 2023

Dear Sir,

Serious Water Stress and inadequate failing water structure

Serious Water Stress is defined in the Water Industry (Prescribed Conditions) Regulations 1999 as where ‘the current household demand for water is a high proportion of the current effective rainfall which is available to meet that demand; or the future household demand for water is likely to be a high proportion of the effective rainfall which is likely to be available to meet that demand’.

Sussex lies within a designated Serious Water Stress Area, and this year during May and June some communities in both East and West Sussex, and in parts of Surrey and Kent too, had their water supplies cut-off with residents left without tap water for several days, apparently because of inadequate and failing water infrastructure.

In her foreword to the Environment Agency’s ‘Water and sewerage companies’ performance 2018 summary’ report published July 2019, Chair, Emma Howard Boyd, expressed her concern that ‘water companies cannot rely on taking water from rivers, often viewed as the cheapest option, to feed their network; those not scoring well are not taking enough action to prepare adequately for droughts in the short term, and are not sufficiently preparing for the long-term supply challenges of population growth and the climate crisis’ – and that she is ‘not seeing dramatic improvements in 2019.’

Since when there have been no ‘dramatic improvements’.

Meanwhile, the Government continues to presume that no matter how large the housing target or development, safe drinking water will always be provided, and sewage treated. Consequently, development plans are adopted, and planning applications permitted on that flawed and dangerous presumption.

Communities cannot therefore be confident that safe drinking water will always be reliably available, and sewage treated without compromising the natural environment, and that decisions taken today will not impoverish future generations.

Because of inadequate and failing water infrastructure, and the reality that droughts will occur more frequently because of rapidly accelerating climate change, the Government’s reckless and irresponsible approach to planning, and the continuing failure to provide essential-for-life infrastructure must stop.

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex