Following incidents where household water supplies have been cut-off during storms, and hose-pipe bans implemented in dry weather, the MP for Bexhill and Battle and South East Water have discussed plans from the water company to deliver more resilience and protection.
Huw Merriman MP and Operations Director for South East Water, Douglas Whitfield, met at one of the company’s key water treatment sites, near Bexhill.
Huw asked for the site meeting to discuss what improvements South East Water were putting in place to make water supplies more resilient following storms in early 2022 which caused loss of water to hundreds of local homes and a hosepipe ban in June this year when demand outstripped the company’s ability to supply some areas of the county.
Operations Director, Douglas Whitfield, took Huw around the water treatment site to explain how water is drawn from local rivers and boreholes across the area and treated to provide safe drinking water to local homes and businesses. He also explained the historical water infrastructure across Sussex means that the county has not been well inter-connected, making it harder to re-route supplies during times of burst mains or exceptional demand.
Mr Whitfield explained to Huw that to create a more robust and resilient system, the water company has submitted a £1.9bn plan to water regulator, Ofwat, for new back-up mains pipe systems and network connections, new reservoirs, and a smart network programme to monitor peaks in demand and leaks in the system. Ofwat is now reviewing the plan and will respond to the water company next year.
Huw had also asked South East Water to ensure they have robust plans in place to deal with emergency water loss events. He asked them to ensure they would provide emergency water supplies and accessible water bottle stations for local residents. He also asked that power generators are installed at sites to ensure power cuts don’t result in water loss. He was assured that clear plans are now in place which included bottled water depots across the constituency, additional water tankers, additional generators and battery storage for water treatment sites alongside working more closely with Resilience Forum partners.
Following the meeting, Huw said “It was very helpful to meet the Operations Director from South East Water at a local water treatment works and to hear from him how the company is responding to the asks that I have made of them on behalf of impacted constituents. I am pleased to see solid progress being made in building resilience into their systems which will help them to better protect supplies for the future and cope with increasingly frequent severe weather events.”
South East Water’s Director of Operations, Douglas Whitfield said: “I was delighted to show Huw Merriman MP around our water treatment works and highlight the challenges we face in extracting, treating and pumping water to tens of thousands of homes in East Sussex. We are deeply sorry that many customers within Huw’s constituency have been affected by extended periods of no water in recent years caused by accelerated changes in the climate and customer habits. We have a range of short, medium and long-term plans in place to improve our infrastructure, preventing issues like these happening again, and I am pleased Huw recognises the hard work being undertaken behind-the-scenes.”