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07 December 22

In a new podcast Affinity Water explains why even if it’s raining, we could still be in drought next year

Affinity Water is reaching out to its 3.8 million customers to explain to them how it monitors its water resources and discuss the drought risks for 2023.

Customers often ask why if it is continually raining it is still necessary to save water in the home and in the garden and now, they can find out.

In a new podcast Daniel Yarker, an Asset Specialist at Affinity Water in Drought Planning, takes a tour of a pumping station in its Central Region in Hertfordshire and explains how the Company monitors its water resources and plans for possible drought conditions.

It can be listened to here:

Affinity Water takes approx. 65 per cent of its water from groundwater sources such as chalk aquifers, and this year did not have to impose a hose pipe ban. However, that situation may change in the New Year if there is not enough rainfall this Winter.

Mr Yarker said: “It is important for us to know we know how healthy groundwater levels are, so that we can operate our sources efficiently to meet the needs of our customers. When groundwater levels are below average, we take action against predetermined triggers. These are a combination of actions to increase our available resources and actions to work with our customers to help reduce demand for water and are set out in our Drought Management Plan. We need to know where groundwater levels are against these triggers so that we can take the required actions and continue to meet the needs of our customers, whilst limiting the impact of our activities on the environment”.

He elaborated on what the Drought Management Plan is: “We have a Drought Management Plan. It is a legal requirement that all water companies have a Drought Management Plan. This is a document that has been publicly consulted on and approved by regulators, which sets out the steps that we will take to protect the supplies of our customers and the environment during the different stages of a drought event. It is important that the plan is in place before a drought event, so that we, our customers and regulators know what to expect of our drought response. It also makes us resilient to a drought event which is really quite bad.

“We monitor water resources or groundwater levels at a number of important locations set out in our plan. Each key well or borehole has triggers associated with it, which sets out the actions that we will take at different stages of a drought event. There are a range of actions that we can take, both to increase the amount of water available for us and to try to decrease the demand for water. Some of these actions have been used by us and other water companies this summer.

“In the early stages of a drought, we step up our communication with our customers, to update them on the water resources situation and ask them to help save water, to reduce the demands on our network. We also increase the amount of data that we collect from the environment, to give us a better picture of the drought severity in case it worsens. If it does, we will form our drought management group, a cross departmental group of key people throughout our business, who work closely together to manage the emerging event. We prepare for the potential introduction of a hosepipe ban, invest in our sources to maximise output and availability and further step-up communication with our customers.

“If groundwater levels decline further, and two consecutive dry winters are usually required to reach this level, we will work with our customers to introduce a temporary usage ban, or hosepipe ban, to help reduce the demand of our network. In a really bad drought event, we can apply to the Environment Agency to increase abstraction at certain sites, known as drought permits. This decision isn’t taken lightly, but it is one of the tools in our armoury that helps us be resilient to droughts”.

Asked if Affinity Water would be imposing a hose pipe ban in the future, he said there was a risk: “Despite the welcome rainfall over the last month or so, groundwater levels do remain below average and further above average rainfall is required for levels to reach average for the time of year. There remains a risk for next year that if the rest of the rest of this winter is dry, we won’t see the desired level of groundwater level recovery. This could mean prolonged below average/drought conditions into 2023. This is a risk that we are preparing for.

“We will take the necessary steps to ensure that if needed, we are ready to implement a temporary use ban early in 2023. These actions will ensure that we can continue to supply our customers with high quality drinking water through 2023”.

He continued by telling customers where they can find out more: “If people are interested in learning about our current water resources levels, they can type ‘Affinity Water resources’ into google and it will take you to the latest information on our website: affinitywater.co.uk/our-water-resources

“If you want to have a more detailed look at our Drought Management Plan, this can be found under the ‘plans’ section on our website: affinitywater.co.uk/corporate/plans/drought-management “Whilst people are there, I would really encourage them to check out our draft ‘Water Resource Management Plan 2024’: affinitywater.co.uk/corporate/plans/water-resources-plan. This is out for consultation at the moment, and we’d really appreciate as many views as possible on our plan to meet the water needs of our customers whilst enhancing the environment over the next fifty years. “We can help customers to do their bit by saving water, energy and money off their bills with free water-saving devices, visit Save our Streams”.

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