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SOUTHERN WATER AND MID KENT WATER DROUGHT ORDERS GRANTED

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Environment minister Ian Pearson has today agreed to make three further drought orders to allow water companies to ...
Environment minister Ian Pearson has today agreed to make three further drought orders to allow water companies to limit or prohibit non-essential uses of water.

The order for Mid Kent Water applies to the whole of the company's area of supply. Two orders have been made for Southern Water. One applies to the company's Medway, Thanet and Hastings supply areas and the second applies to its Sussex Coast and Sussex North supply areas.

The first non-essential use drought order for over a decade was granted to Sutton and East Surrey Water earlier this month. No other companies have submitted drought order applications to date, or indicated that they intend to.

Authorising the orders the minister said:

'Recent rainfall has not reduced the need for restrictions in the south east. Reservoirs are nearly full but the region relies on groundwater for 70% of its supply, and in the case of Mid Kent Water it's 85%. The winter recharge season is over, yet groundwater levels remain critically low, and the Environment Agency has advised that the rain we are seeing now will have little impact on these levels.

'The government's priority is the protection of consumers and of the environment during this exceptional drought. By reducing non-essential uses, essential supplies to communities can be better maintained should the drought continue. Taking action now is the responsible thing to do.

'We are granting these Orders as a precautionary measure, to allow the companies to take the actions proportionate to the evolving threat to supplies. While the exercise and use of the powers conferred through the Orders is a matter for each company concerned, I expect each company to implement the restrictions in a manner that achieves the most in the way of water savings with as little impact as possible on businesses and in the light of changing circumstances.

I have asked each company to keep me informed about the way that they are implementing those restrictions that prove necessary and their overall position on supplies. In addition to this my Right Honourable Friend the Secretary of State and I will be meeting next week with both the Regulator, Ofwat, and all of the water companies to discuss the management of water resources.

'All three companies that have sought drought orders to date have succeeded in meeting their leakage targets, and it is clear that the power to introduce restrictions is necessary over and above any further improvements on leakage they are able to make in the short term.

'It is entirely right that the performance of water companies should be scrutinised and debated, and I have made clear that I expect to see continued efforts from all the companies to improve leakage. But reducing leakage alone does not solve the problems of low rainfall.

'I am heartened by the positive response of many people so far to the message that in addition to action by the companies we have collective responsibility for managing water as shared resource.

'I hope that today's decisions will help everyone focus on the key message that in the areas affected it is their action now and in the months to come which will help all of us to avoid more extreme sanctions should the drought continue into the summer and beyond. '

Today's decision comes after drought order applications from Mid Kent Water and Southern Water on 20 March. Following hearings before independent Inspectors at which representations and objections were heard, the inspectors submitted their reports to the secretary of state with their recommendations. The reports highlighted:

* that there has been an exceptional shortage of rain and that without the proposed non-essential use bans there is a substantial threat to water supplies in the companies' areas

* that it is important the companies have the authority to ban these non-essential uses if made necessary by a worsening drought situation and recommended therefore that the Drought Orders should be made.

For copies of the inspectors' reports and the minister's decision letters email beverley.parr@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Notes

1. Drought orders are made under sections 73-74 of the Water Resources Act 1991 (as amended).

2. These Drought Orders empower Mid Kent Water and Southern Water to prohibit or limit the uses set out in the Drought Direction 1991.

They follow a similar Drought Order granted recently to Sutton & East Surrey Water. The two Orders granted to Southern Water do not apply to all the customers to whom the Company supplies water. They apply to the Company's Medway, Thanet, Hastings and Sussex Coast/Sussex North supply areas but not to the Company's Hampshire and Isle of Wight supply areas.

3. The Drought Orders do not require the Companies to prohibit water uses. Implementation is a matter for the Companies in the light of changing circumstances. The Drought Orders are valid for 6 months.

4. The purposes specified in the Drought Direction 1991 are:

(a) the watering, by hosepipe, sprinkler or other similar apparatus,

of:

(i) gardens (other than market gardens), including lawns, verges and other landscaped areas;

(ii) allotments;

(iii) parks;

(iv) any natural or artificial surfaces used for sport or recreation, whether publicly or privately owned;

(b) the filling (whether wholly or partially) of privately owned swimming pools, other than:

(i) pools designed to be used in the course of a programme of medical treatment;

(ii) the filling of pools where necessary in the course of their construction;

(c) the filling (whether wholly or partially) of ornamental ponds other than fish ponds;

(d) the operation of mechanical vehicle washers, whether automatic or not;

(e) the washing of road vehicles, boats, railway rolling stock or aircraft for any reason other than safety or hygiene;

(f) the cleaning of the exterior of buildings, other than windows;

(g) the cleaning of windows by hosepipe, sprinkler or other similar apparatus

(h) the cleaning of industrial premises or plant for any reason other than safety or hygiene;

(i) the operation of ornamental fountains or cascades, including those where water is recycled;

(j) the operation, in relation to any building or other premises, of any cistern which flushes automatically, during any period when those premises are wholly or substantially unoccupied.

5. The minister agreed with one of the inspector's recommendations to make the Orders subject to an amendment to the restrictions on the use of water for the filling of ornamental ponds, other than fish

ponds. The Secretary of State has therefore extended the exception

for fish ponds to include 'wildlife garden ponds' in all three Orders.

6. Advice for consumers on how they can help reduce the amount of water unnecessarily wasted is available at http:www.beatthedrought.com

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