South East Water Drought Water Order

South East Water has been granted a drought order to fill Ardingly Reservoir which was just 12% full

South East Water was investigated by The Environment Agency because of mis-measurements of Ardingly Reservoir after it had applied for a drought order.

The water company has now been granted a drought order by the Environment Department (Defra), to help it refill the reservoir, which was just 12% full by the end of November.

The Government said South East Water's mis-measurements of the reservoir, which is now 30% full thanks to rain in December, delayed its application for a drought order and led to it being needed more urgently.

The company admitted today that it had overestimated the amount of usable water in the reservoir.

A Defra spokeswoman said: "The Government has acted quickly to protect the water supply to homes served by Ardingly reservoir by granting a drought order to South East Water.''

An exceptional lack of rain over the last eight months caused the lack of supply.

South East Water has acknowledged that their mis-measurement of the water in the reservoir delayed their application for a drought order and contributed to the urgency with which it is now needed.

The Environment Secretary has asked the Environment Agency to commission an independent review into how this situation came about and will expect the company to co-operate fully with it.

In a statement, South East Water said that following a dry spring this year the company implemented its drought plan.

"Normally we would expect rainfall in the early Autumn to replenish our reservoirs after the Summer, but an exceptionally dry September, October and November raised the urgency of the situation."

South East Water monitors its reservoir levels, but during its more detailed investigations as part of its drought planning it found the relationship between levels and volume led to an overestimation of the storage available.

This had not been an issue until the extended, dry autumn when, due to the conical shape of the reservoirs, the variance between the actual depth of water, and what volume of that water is usable for public water supplies, became more apparent as levels significantly dropped at Ardingly.''

The company said it was now reporting the figures for the usable volume of water to the Environment Agency and Defra.

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: ``We support the Secretary of State's decision to grant a drought order which will help to safeguard the water supplies for South East Water's customers and the local environment come next spring and summer.

Following this, a full review into why the drought water order has been needed will take place.