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South East Water has looked to the Wild West for inspiration and produced a “Wanted Poster” for a new public awareness campaign, due to a worsening drought situation in its Sussex and West Kent water supply area.
But instead of searching for villains with a bounty on their head, the Company is looking for rain – something the whole South East region has been lacking this year.
In fact, according to historic rainfall data, the last 12 months (November 2010 – October 2011) have been drier than 1976, 1934 and 1921 - all of which coincide with historical extreme drought events.
From January 2011 to October 2011, the Sussex region saw only 40% of long term average rainfall.
The onset of Autumn was replaced by a late ‘Indian Summer’ with October one of the warmest months on record, and November looking to follow this record-breaking trend.
As a result, South East Water’s two reservoirs in Sussex – Ardingly and Arlington - are now at their lowest ever levels.
While levels at Ardingly Reservoir show it is currently 26 per cent full, and Arlington Reservoir 29 per cent full, due to the coned shape of both reservoirs, not all of the remaining water is suitable for supplying as drinking water as those levels drop.
That means the amount of usable water left in each reservoir is between 15 and 20 per cent - the equivalent of six to 10 weeks worth of available water.
Water levels in the Company’s groundwater sources – particularly along the Seaford coast where water is drawn from chalk aquifers, and in West Kent and East Sussex, where water is drawn from sandstone aquifers - are also below average for the time of year.
Lee Dance, Head of Water Resources at South East Water, said: “Our reservoirs are now reaching such low levels that we are taking all necessary precautions to minimise the impact of what could be a worsening drought.
“That includes fine tuning our water supply network to move water around the Sussex area.
“We continue to work closely with the Environment Agency to progress options which would allow us to take more water out of the rivers than we are currently licenced to do so.
“However, in tandem with that, we are also moving into the next phase of our customer awareness campaign and have produced our Wanted Poster, which we hope will get across what is a serious message.
“This is especially so as we head into what should be wetter, winter months, when we will want to capture every drop of water we can, ready to meet the higher customer demands for water in the Spring.
“We hope our poster campaign is a timely reminder that water is a precious and finite resource, whatever the weather, and we should all use it wisely to ensure we have enough for our daily needs.”
The poster is being sent to local parish, town, district and county councils, organisations and other local interest groups in Sussex and West Kent, with the aim of getting them displayed in prominent positions in as many locations as possible.
In the meantime, South East Water is reminding customers that adopting simple water efficiency measures can help make a positive impact on the region’s water resources. These measures include:
· Using a bucket and sponge to wash your car instead of a hosepipe.
· Taking shorter showers instead of baths.
· Turning off the tap when you clean your teeth.
· Installing a water displacement bag in your toilet cistern - this can save about 1.6 litres per flush.
· Using washing machines and dishwashers only when you have a full load.
· Installing a water butt in your garden to collect winter rain – plants prefer rainwater to tap water
South East Water supplies 565 million litres of water every day to 2.1 million customers in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.
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.