In June 2019, we warned that flows in the River Test were falling.
As we explained, because of new rules governing when we can take water out of the river to supply customers, there was an increased risk of drought during dry weather.
Around the middle of July 2019, flows dropped to the point where we forecast that a drought permit may be needed to continue using the river – which is a vital source of fresh water for south Hampshire.
So we applied to our regulator, the Environment Agency, for a drought permit to allow us to continue taking water from the River Test if its flows continued to drop as forecast.
Using a drought permit means we must do everything in our power to reduce water use and so minimise the impact on the river’s precious and unique habitat.
We were granted a drought permit for the River Test on 6 September 2019. We came close to implementing it in mid-September, but thanks to significant and prolonged rainfall across Hampshire throughout October and November, the river recharged and started to recharge groundwater.
The permit was due to expire on March 5 but, due to this improved situation, we don't foresee the need to implement the drought permit before then and asked the Environment Agency to withdraw it as of 29 November 2019.
It is possible that we will need to reapply for the drought permit this spring or summer and we are already working with the Environment Agency on how to improve preparation for this.
What we're doing
For our part, we have been deploying extra teams and technology to tackle leaks. In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, we’re now saving an extra 5 million litres a day than in February as a result.
We’ve also been helping our customers to become more water efficient by using simple devices in the home or garden such as water butts.
We’ve also been importing water from neighbouring companies under bulk supply agreements to reduce the amount we need to take from the River Test.
What we can all do
If a drought permit is granted, we are required by law to impose Temporary Use Bans (TUBs), previously known as hosepipe bans.
If we do have to do this, it will be carried out in a phased way in specific areas which depend on the River Test for water and we’ll provide full details in advance.
We understand this may be disruptive and inconvenient but it’s important that we all play a part in protecting the environment and the River Test. We will continue to keep our customers updated on the progress of our permit application.
Follow the links to find out more about:
Protecting Hampshire's rivers
Drought - water restrictions checker
How to save water