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Aylesford Water Recycling Project

We’re planning to introduce a Water Recycling Plant in Aylesford, to ensure a resilient supply of water for Kent.

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Why does Kent need a new source of water?

We rely on the River Bewl and the River Medway to fill Bewl Water Reservoir, which provides most of the water to our customers in Kent. Currently, when water levels in the River Medway are low, water is released from the reservoir back into the Medway to supplement flows in the river – for the benefit of the environment.

To protect the local environment, we need to reduce the amount of water that we take from the River Medway during times of drought. At the same time, population growth and climate change continue to put pressure on the water supply. This means that we need to find new, sustainable sources of water to help keep both taps and rivers flowing during periods of drought.

Our Water Recycling Plant

Our proposed Water Recycling Plant will take some of the treated wastewater from our Aylesford Wastewater Treatment Works and purify it further using tried and tested advanced water recycling techniques. We are currently developing our proposals and are considering several locations to release the recycled water back into the environment, including release in the River Medway to support river flows. This would reduce the amount of water Bewl Water Reservoir needs to provide to the River Medway when flows are low and would help maintain our reservoir storage levels during periods of drought, providing resilience for our customers in Kent.  

The final proposal will be based on environmental need, cost to customers and the feedback received during pre-application engagement with the local community and the Environment Agency. Water from the River Medway will continue to be abstracted and treated at our existing Burham Water Supply Works where it would be treated to drinking water standards and supplied to our customers in Kent.

The new pipeline

As part of the project, we are also proposing to build new water transfer pipelines and pumping stations to connect our proposed new Water Recycling Plant to the recycled water release point. Throughout 2023/4, we will be undertaking ground surveys to work out the best route for the new water pipelines.

We expect to have decided upon a proposed location to release the recycled water into the environment and proposed pipeline route later in 2024 and will share this information at a public consultation, expected in late 2024. The consultation will be open to everyone, and members of the community will have the opportunity to give their views on the developing proposals to help shape them.

These proposals are subject to further engagement, consultation, and planning consent. Water recycling is just one of our strategic solutions we're exploring to address water shortages in Kent, including reducing leakage and improving water efficiency.

1

2019

Water Resources Management Plan published

2

2024

Public consultation

3

2025

Anticipated consent application submission

4

2025

Consent application decision

5

2026/7

Construction expected to start (pending planning consent)

6

2031

Aylesford water recycling plant operational

Frequently asked questions

The South East of England is water stressed and parts of Kent are predicted to face a water shortage if no action is taken. To protect the environment, we need to reduce the amount of water we take from the River Medway during times of drought. At the same time, population growth and climate change continue to put pressure on the demand for water. We need to find new sources of water to make up the shortfall and meet the future demands of our customers without taking more water from the environment.

Water recycling would address the water shortage in Kent and help improve drought resilience in a 1-in-200-year drought.

The amount of water on earth does not change. In fact, all water on earth has been constantly recycled through the water cycle. Water recycling uses technology to speed up this natural process.

Currently, wastewater that has been cleaned and treated is released into the sea or another body of water in line with our permit from the Environment Agency. Over time, water from the sea evaporates and falls as rain, filling up our water sources like aquifers and rivers. Water is abstracted from these sources and treated to strict drinking water standards at a Water Supply Works before being sent into supply.

Water recycling eliminates the need to wait for evaporation and rainfall, speeding up the natural water cycle process. With water recycling, some of the treated wastewater would be diverted to a specialised plant where it would be treated further before being released into a lake, river, or reservoir to mix with other sources of water.

Yes, water recycling is a safe, established method of water treatment that has been used elsewhere around the world for over 40 years. Recycled water is used as a drinking water source in countries like Australia, Singapore and the USA.

Before this project is implemented, we will work with our regulators to undertake a rigorous system of process control, monitoring and performance assessments.

The Aylesford Water Recycling Project is being developed for use primarily during periods of drought. Depending on the final design and operation plan, it may be necessary to produce a continuous small flow of water, known as a ‘sweetening flow’, to keep the water recycling plant and associated pipelines functioning effectively.

We are still developing our proposal and are considering several locations where we might release the recycled water, including points along the River Medway both upstream and downstream of  our abstraction point. Recycled water is treated using advanced treatment processes and all water fed into public supply will have also been through full drinking water treatment to meet strict water quality standards.

Our plans are still in the early stages of development, but we expect impurities removed from the recycled water to be transferred to Ham Hill Wastewater Treatment Works through a new pipeline and mixed with the treated wastewater from the site that’s released to the River Medway at the existing release point which is downstream of the drinking water abstraction point.

We are surveying the environment, modelling the reject stream quality and investigating this proposal with the Environment Agency.

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