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Ford Water Recycling Project

We’re planning to introduce a Water Recycling Plant in Ford, to provide a new source of water for our customers in West Sussex.


Why does West Sussex need water recycling?

We rely on the River Western Rother which helps us to supply water to our customers in West Sussex. To protect the river and the local environment, we need to reduce the amount of water that we take from the river 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 plant will take some treated wastewater from our Ford Wastewater Treatment Works and purify it further using tried and tested advanced water recycling techniques. After purification the recycled water would be released into the River Western Rother to replace water abstracted from the river during periods of drought.

We will continue to abstract river water and turn it into drinking water at our Hardham Water Supply Works. We are currently developing our proposal for the Ford Water Recycling Plant and are considering several locations to release the recycled water into the River Western Rother, both upstream and downstream of the drinking water abstraction point. The final design of the project will reflect the guidance from regulators, the requirements of the consent and the feedback we receive from customers and the community.

The new pipeline

To deliver these proposals, we will need to build a new water transfer pipeline and new pumping stations to connect our proposed Water Recycling Plant to the River Western Rother.

Throughout 2023/4, we are undertaking ground surveys to work out the best route for the new water pipelines. We expect to have decided upon a proposed route in 2024, which will be shared at a public consultation, expected in late 2024. The consultation will be open to everyone and there will be opportunities for members of the community 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 the strategic solutions we're exploring to address water shortages in West Sussex, including reducing leakage and improving water efficiency.



Water Resources Management Plan published



Public consultation



Anticipated consent application submission



Consent application decision



Construction expected to start (pending planning consent)



Ford water recycling plant operational

Frequently asked questions

The South East of England is water stressed and parts of West Sussex are predicted to face a water shortage if no action is taken, particularly in the northern part of the county. To protect the environment, we need to reduce the amount of water we take from the River Western Rother 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 West Sussex 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 Ford Water Recycling Project is being developed for use 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 pipelines functioning effectively.

We are still developing our proposal for Ford and are considering several locations where we might release the recycled water into the Western Rother, 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 Ford Wastewater Treatment Works and mixed with the remainder of the treated wastewater that’s released from the site out to the sea through the existing long sea outfall.

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

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