Sutton and East Surrey Water looking to reduce groundwater reliance
As drought restrictions continue in parts of Surrey despite months of rain, one water company has said it is looking to reduce its reliance on groundwater - but it may take 25 years.
Sutton and East Surrey Water (SESW) supplies areas including Leatherhead, Ashtead, Tadworth and Woodmansterne and still has a hospipe ban in force because it draws 85 per cent of its water from boreholes which remain depleted.
Just three miles away in Epsom, served by Thames Water, all restrictions were lifted on June 14 because heavy rainfall had replenished its reservoirs.
Stuart Hyslop, spokesman for SESW, said the issue of relying so much on groundwater supplies is a concern -particularly with predicted long-term changes in weather patterns.
He said the company is looking to diversify its water supply and is a member of the Water Resources in the South East Regional Modelling Project, which aims to identify where additional water is needed and where there is more available, including whether new reservoirs need to be built.
Mr Hyslop said: "There is a concern about what is happening to the weather and we need to make sure there is enough water available to meet demand.
"There has been a concern for many years, not just among water companies, but within the Government, particularly with regards to South East England because it is densely populated, has a growing population, and a very finite amount of water."
In the meantime, he said SESW is boosting its supply with water from its only reservoir in Bough Beach, Kent.
He said: "It is a large reservoir and we have been increasing its treatment capacity so more water is available in the water supply system.
"That will increase our resilience in a situation where we have a big spike in demand or we have a drought during which our boreholes are affected."
An employee at Farm Lane Nursery, a garden centre in Ashtead, said sales had fallen due to the ban.
She said: “But don’t want to buy things because they will have to take them home and use a hosepipe. It is quiet.
"The hosepipe ban and the weather combined have had an effect.”
The owner of the Vineries Garden Centre in Effingham said: “The ban could have seriously affected business for us if the weather had been hot, but because of the rain it has been an excellent growing season for gardeners.
“This could well be a growing problem as there is such a high population in this area of users.
"In the future, when there is a dry spell, there will be a water shortage.
"The way around that is to divert water from other areas with high rainfall.”
In its 2012-13 report on Water Resources and Drought Prospects, the Environment Agency supports the position of water companies such as SESW.
It said: "Low groundwater levels remain a concern across many parts of England.
"Many are still at a similar level to those in 1976 and unlikely to return to normal levels before the winter.
"It will take more time and more rain to undo the effects of two dry winters on groundwater stores."