Watering the Garden of England – Water Management in Kent
Kent has held the title of the ‘Garden of England’ for 400 years, and deservedly so, as the county grows an array of fruits (from apples to watermelons!) and provides hops for the entire UK. It also captures the beauty of a quintessential English garden with 42 nature reserves and 17 conservation areas across the county.
However, like every garden, Kent needs watering, and providing a whole county with water is certainly a bigger task than watering your front garden. South East Water has just released their water conservation plan for 2020 until 2080 to ensure that the whole of Kent maintains a water surplus for the next 60 years. We have taken a look at the plan and the implications it could have on how we use our water.
Why is Water Supply a Challenge in Kent?
In 2007, Kent was designated as an area of serious water stress by Defra. In short, this means that the current (and future) demand for water is a high proportion of the current effective rainfall that is available to meet that demand. Kent is one of the driest areas in the UK and as a result, it is liable to droughts and water shortages. Therefore, it is seriously important to secure a reliant and environmentally-resilient water supply.
On top of this, the south-east of England as a whole is officially identified as an area of significant population and economic growth in the coming years. Kent alone is expected to have at least 7 brand-new ‘garden cities’ in the next 20 years, which could comprise of over 50,000 homes. Over the 60 years that the new water management plan spans, the population is forecast to increase by 49%, which will require an extra 217 million litres of water per day. With this kind of growth in the pipeline, water could become even more sparse if a sensible long term plan is not acted upon.
What Strategies is South East Water using to increase Kent’s water levels?
The new South East Water ‘Water Resources Management Plan’ is based on a ‘twin-track’ approach that simultaneously tries to reduce the demand for water and manage the supply-demand balance in the future. They propose using a wide range of both water supply and water conservation techniques to achieve their goals.
Water Supply Strategies
- Reservoir Creation: South East Water plan to create two reservoirs over the next 60 years. The first will be in Broad Oak, near Canterbury with an intake from the Great Stour. Secondly, they are planning to extend the reservoir at Arlington in East Sussex so that it will yield 16.1 million litres a day by 2035.
- Groundwater Schemes: Recently questions have been raised by the Environment Agency over whether groundwater schemes which draw water from the earth are sustainable for future water abstraction. With this in mind, SE Water is only implementing one groundwater scheme at the former Aylesford Newsprint site near Maidstone. This development will begin in 2023 and will involve drilling boreholes, creating a stream and constructing a new water treatment plant. Once completed, the scheme will deliver 18.2 million litres of water a day to Maidstone.
- Water Transfers: South East Water plan to rely on water transfers between zones within kent as well as regional transfers between water companies across the south-east. These transfers will tide over particularly water-short areas in the driest of months and allow for the appropriate water usage across the county.
Water Conservation Strategies
- Leakage reduction: Leakage from water mains is the biggest cause of lost water across Kent. South East Water aims to use a specialist technological system to detect even the smallest of leaks along their pipelines. Their aim is to reduce leakage by 15% before 2025, saving Kent a huge amount of water in the process.
- Improving Water Efficiency: SE Water is going to use behavioural economics strategies to encourage their customers to use water more efficiently. Customers will receive a biannual report comparing their water usage to their neighbours and offering them tips to reduce their consumption. They are hoping to use analytics and a personalised portal so that they can tailor their consumption advice to their customers’ lifestyles and even start an incentive scheme.
- Land Owner Education: This strategy involves educating local landowners about their off mains drainage systems – septic tanks and cesspits – and their discharge into groundwater. This will encourage landowners to practice high-quality nutrient management and to invest in sustainable drainage systems so that water can be conserved. It is forecast to save over 3 million litres of water a day by 2035.