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The challenge applies to the areas of Warnford, Cheriton, Kilmeston, Bramdean and Hinton Ampner, Bishops Sutton and Beauworth Most of this area’s water comes directly from the River Itchen.
What is the River Itchen Challenge?
The internationally-renowned river is designated as a Special Area of Conservation and home to a wealth of wildlife reliant on abundant water supplies. To protect the river and wildlife, the Environment Agency is changing three of our abstraction licences. This means we must take less water during the summer and, in severe drought when the river is at its lowest levels, we will not be able to take any at all.
How will the challenge work?
We are asking for your help to reduce the area’s water use and will monitor this over the course of about a year. If, after this time, collective water use has reduced by at least 10 per cent we will make a financial contribution to community good causes. Our free water-saving visits to homes, groups and small businesses are a key part. An engineer will look at how much water is being used in the property and will fit free water-saving gadgets to taps, toilets and shower heads if needed. All visits are booked in advance with our partners Aqualogic and will take about an hour. In addition, we’ll be making regular visits to the area to say hello, and would love to come and speak at your community group or school. Being water efficient is a key way customers can help us reduce abstraction and can also save them money through lower water and energy bills too – all with some relatively simple interventions and behavioural changes.
How can I get involved?
There are lots of ways! Book a home visit, invite us to speak to your group, join our challenge Facebook group, share your water-saving stories and tips with us and spread the word about the project among your neighbours. We’ll be keeping in regular contact to see how you’re getting on and will regularly update you on progress.
How we will measure water use throughout the challenge?
Consumption will be measured at what is called a ‘district meter’ which is the meter at the point of supply for all the water used locally. Any incentives will be benchmarked against the amount being measured into supply at this point. Individual household meters will also be read as part of the project to ensure the effectiveness of the household water saving visits.
How will you update us?
We’ll update you via the scheme’s webpage, Facebook page and via the parish councils.
How are we doing our bit?
We are taking steps to balance the reduction to ensure there is enough water available to supply our customers.
Why we want you to use less water?
We live in a Government-declared water-stressed area which means there is likely to be a supply deficit in future years. We must take action - the South East is particularly at risk from longer, more frequent droughts. We plan many years ahead to ensure we can continue to supply water to everyone. Water efficiency is a key part of these plans. Yes, there will be a loss in income from water bills but there will also be an associated reduction in our operational costs of treating and pumping water. Reducing the amount of water required in an area also has the potential to delay, or even negate, the need for investment in upgraded equipment or infrastructure to provide more water This is why water efficiency is the best way – both environmentally and financially - to protect future supplies.
How else do we help those who are worried about their bills?
If you have a water meter, using less water will mean lower bills. If you’re worried about your bills, we can help in other ways. We offer support tariffs and schemes to fit with different circumstances and have a specialised debt advice team on hand. To find out more about how we can help please visit:
How did we choose the good causes?
We met with each parish council to talk through the project. We then came up with some simple guidelines and asked them to choose which good causes would benefit.
I don’t think I can use less water?
It might be easier than you think. We commissioned a study from environmental think tank Green Alliance that showed the average household can save up to £78 per year by making some very simple changes around the home. The calculations are based on the introduction of simple behaviour change tips and water efficiency measures such as fitting water-saving devices on showers and toilets and not overfilling the kettle. In the garden, water butts or controlled trickle irrigation can play an important role. People can cut out the waste and still have everything they want at home. We’ve been running our water-saving visits across the region since 2015. They are, on average, reducing water use by about 10 per cent - some properties, particularly older ones, are seeing even bigger savings.
Are your targets achievable?
We believe so. Average usage in the area for the financial year 2015/16 was 180 litres a day – far more than the average usage in Hampshire during the same period which was 124 litres, so a reduction of 10% could be easily achieved. Even the 25% reduction, which equates to a saving of 45 litres a day, would result in above-average usage of 135 litres a day.