Residents in the South East of the UK are facing intense worry amid the probability of their water supply drying up due to the current heatwave, and increased demand following the pandemic. Hundreds of homes were left with low pressure or no running water as high temperatures persisted and thermometers rose to over 30C.
According to South East Water, around 300 households in West Sussex experienced little to no water supply for days due to an unprecedented surge in usage and demand.
Tankers were sent to the area to directly inject water into the pipes, while four bottled water stations were set up for consumers. In addition, vulnerable customers had bottled water delivered to their homes.
The supplier reported a record high demand of 696 million litres of water in the area. This figure is over 150 million litres more than the average supply, with such demand being attributed to the prevailing heatwave and temperatures of around 35C, which prompted more water use.
Additionally, staycations amid the coronavirus lockdown are also part of the reason for the extreme demand that the South East’s water supply has faced.
South East Water’s head of central operations, Steve Andrews, made a press statement assuring consumers that the company was working around the clock to pump massive amounts of water into the supply network.
Andrews said that the affected homes were mostly located at the terminal end of the firm’s underground pipe network.
Additionally, about 4,400 households in East Sussex experienced supply issues, caused by two burst water mains. The situation persisted for several hours in most parts of the region, but it took days for residents in Jarvis Brook and Crowborough to have their issues rectified.
Several customers shared their sentiments regarding the failing water supply. Comments on Twitter include that of University of Sussex lecturer, Kathryn Lester. She stated that providing water bottles is not enough, given that they were already on the fourth day of low or no running water.
NHS nurse Rachel Wright stated that the lack of water in Cuckfield left them unable to flush toilets. Gary Walker reported a similar dilemma from Warninglid. He recounted the horror of having to remove waste to bury it in the garden manually.
Klara Verrell, a Perfect Start Nursery employee, said they had to close down because of the water shortage. She said they did not have hot water to ensure the children could wash their hands properly.
Residents in Crowborough, Rotherfield, Mayfield, Five Ashes, and Hadlow Down were affected by the water shortage. Some parts of Heathfield also experienced a lack of water supply.
Mid Sussex MP Mims Davies called the incident ‘shambolic’, given the lack of communication with the public. She also described the situation as embarrassing for South East Water.
Several water companies have been urging consumers to save water to prevent the risk of losing supply across the South of England.
Affinity Water, servicing Clacton-on-Sea, pleaded with residents to conserve water amid the dwindling supply – again brought on due to the heatwave. The firm indicated that they are faced with a 130-year record high in demand, which is alarming considering that the coronavirus pandemic is also going to remain with us for the foreseeable future.
Affinity indicated that their supply would be sufficient if residents only consume what they need. Using less could also avoid the onset of a full-blown water shortage.
United Utilities, Britain’s largest water supplier, confessed that it struggled to meet the increase in demand due to the hot weather.
On the other hand, Yorkshire Water encouraged its three million consumers to avoid showering for over four minutes to prevent the need for a hosepipe ban.
Based on a Water UK report, water demand could outstrip supply within twenty years if no immediate action is taken. Water firms have redoubled their efforts to inform and educate people about the importance of water conservation, in an effort to ensure that this scenario does not repeat itself in the future.
The ‘Water’s Worth Saving’ Campaign by Water UK aims to inspire people to think about their water usage, and push for ways to conserve this precious resource for years to come.