Bewl Water, the largest body of water in the South East, is just one part of a complex system of water management that is already curbing housebuilding.
This was the message coming out of a BBC Countryfile visit to the Southern Water reservoir, filmed last week and broadcast on Sunday [May 15].
Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, told the programme that by 2050 the country would need to find an extra 4 billion litres of water a day, thanks to a combination of increasing population and climate change.
“It’s existential. If we don’t address it, then in 20 or 25 years the country will simply not have all the water that we need,” he said.
“We’d need to empty one of these reservoirs [like Bewl] every week.”
Presenter Tom Heap said Countryfile had found ‘over ‘2,100 homes currently stuck in planning limbo across West Sussex in the councils of Crawley, Horsham and Chichester’ due to legal action taken by Natural England to enforce ‘water neutrality’.
“It’s existential. If we don’t address it, then in 20 or 25 years the country will simply not have all the water that we need,”
Under ‘water neutrality’, said Tom: ‘unless builders can show their plans won’t add pressure to the region’s water supply, their building plans will be put on ice.’
Dr Toby Willison, environmental director of Southern Water, said the utilities were installing ‘acoustic detectors’ on pipes to alert the company to leaks, and also co-operating with other water companies to build the country’s first new reservoir since 1991, near Portsmouth.
Water companies also piped water into one another’s areas, a spokesman for Southern Water told the Times, giving the example of transferring water from Bewl to Darwell reservoir, to supply Hastings.
Southern Water operates Bewl Water as a reservoir, but leisure activities are run by Elite Leisure Collection, publisher of the Times.