Local talks share the journey of water – and some of the trials along the way


A passion for public speaking led Ashley to deliver our Waterwise and Sewerwise talks.

Now, she helps people of all ages understand where their water comes from, where it goes – and how to avoid problems along the way.

A passion for public speaking

I was a student ambassador when I was at university ten years ago. I gave talks during campus tours, open days and STEM events. When I joined Southern Water, I heard about similar work being done by the company, so I asked to be involved.

My official role is Environmental Compliance Advisor. However, I find giving educational talks alongside my day-to-day duties really rewarding.

Over the last five years, I’ve attended college recruitment stalls, STEM events, environmental action days and business functions on behalf of Southern Water. However, I mostly deliver Waterwise and Sewerwise talks at primary and secondary schools, and for community groups like Scouts and Residents Associations.

The journey of water

We deliver Waterwise and Sewerwise courses for people of all ages – from five year olds to 105 year olds! Whatever age someone may be, knowing where their water comes from – and where their wastewater goes – is important. It helps them appreciate the effort required, so they don’t take water for granted. We tailor each session to the audience, including the videos and activities we use.

The two sessions focus on different parts of what we do, namely water and wastewater:

Waterwise talks focus on the importance of water. We explain where drinking water comes from and how we treat it. We also share tips for saving water, energy and money.
Sewerwise talks explain what happens to wastewater after it goes down the toilet or plughole. We tell people how to prevent homes being flooded by binning items like wet wipes and only flushing the three Ps – pee, poo and paper. We also provide information about the impact of incorrectly-plumbed properties, the importance of street gullies for carrying rainwater out to sea and how we treat wastewater.

Teaching tomorrow’s customers

People of all ages find the talks interesting. Yet children are the water users, bill payers and homeowners of tomorrow. So the topics we cover can be especially important to them.

The talks can shape the way they use water and drains in the future, preventing issues like blockages later on. Children also have the power to influence older people in their families to do their bit to save water and keep our sewers flowing.

Localising the learning

I like to give my talks a local angle. I try to show each group the full journey of the water they use – from source to tap, then flush to finish. I use our map systems, photos from our sites and my local knowledge of our network to show groups exactly where their drinking water comes from, how it gets to them – and where their wastewater ends up.

I showed one group in Hampshire how we collect water from the River Itchen for local residents to use, then return treated wastewater back to the River. This showed the group how reliant we are on our local watercourses – and why it’s so important we take care of them, for instance, by using only what we need.

Answering questions, of all kinds

We receive all kinds of questions at the talks – from children asking about poo to older bill payers asking challenging questions about the service they’ve received.

In most school groups, we’re asked about the weirdest things we’ve found in the sewers. If you’re part of a school, book your visit here or community group, book a community talk and we’ll let you know!

 Ashley, Environmental Compliance Advisor