Protecting Hampshire’s rivers
The Rivers Test and Itchen in west Hampshire are among the finest examples of chalk streams in the world – rare ecosystems that support an abundance of wildlife such as salmon, trout, crayfish and dragonflies. However, the twin pressures of more extreme weather events and a growing population have put strain on these rivers – threatening the wildlife these unique habitats support.
To protect Hampshire’s rivers, the Environment Agency updated our licences in March 2019. The new licences restrict how much water we can take when river flows are low. Hampshire is now at risk of water shortages, especially during dry weather when water restrictions may be required.
To prevent a shortage, we’re investing in new water sources and asking customers to save water.
Check river flows in Hampshire
Why may water restrictions be needed?
Securing new water sources to address the shortfall will take time. Until then, the area will be at risk of water shortages and we may need to apply for drought permits or drought orders to ensure customers’ supplies are maintained.
Drought permits and drought orders allow us to continue to take water during dry weather. We monitor the river levels and will apply for a permit if flows drop below an agreed level. If a permit is granted by the Environment Agency, we must introduce water restrictions to reduce unnecessary demand on the rivers when supply is already short.
Previously known as hosepipe bans, the water restrictions are now called temporary use bans. They limit some types of water use – for example, using hosepipes or pressure washers. We know customers may find water restrictions inconvenient, but we must balance our needs with those of the environment – everyone can help to protect these rivers, together.
If we have to impose temporary use bans, we’ll introduce them in phases starting with areas which depend on the river with low flows for water. We’ll provide full details in advance.
Are water restrictions in place in my area?
What we’re doing
We’re pumping hundreds of millions of pounds into Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to address the shortfall.
Central to our plans is a desalination plant which will take water from the Solent and turn it into drinking water. We’re also exploring other potential new sources of water, including water recycling to keep treated water in our network – and new water mains to link up our key sites and bring in supplies from neighbouring companies.
Find out more about what we're doing:
What we're doing
What you can do
While we work to address Hampshire’s water shortage, you can ease the pressure on our precious rivers by following these tips on how to save water.