Climate change

Climate change is a significant issue in the South East because global warming is leading to changes in our weather with an increased threat of droughts and flooding.

The Met Office has stated that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any other preceding decade in the instrumental record, and 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2001.

The sea is predicted to rise by one metre this century, exposing millions more people to flooding, and, by 2080, annual rainfall in the South East could drop by half.

We're making plans to cope with the increased threat of droughts and flooding to ensure there are sufficient water supplies to go round and reduce the risk of sewer flooding to homes and gardens.


Water industry

The water industry accounts for nearly 1% of the UK greenhouse gas emissions and has an important role to play in reducing emissions in order to meet the UK target of reducing greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.

In addition the water sector in the UK is aiming for net zero emissions by 2030.
The multi-national Nereus partnership enables Southern Water to work closely with others and access crucial data, technical results and provide market-leading information on nutrient recovery technology.

This includes water, wastewater and academic institutes from across Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK.

This Europe-wide learning will help support wider trials with studies, technology assessment and selection, monitoring and analysis of all site trials.

Results from five of the partners carrying out trials will feed into an online support tool which will be developed by three academic institutes, including the University of Portsmouth.

The final tool will help decision-makers on technologies, policies, regulations and locations when considering options for energy, water and nutrient recovery at decentralised urban wastewater sites.

Our carbon footprint

We're one of the largest users of energy in the South East due to the significant amounts of energy needed to pump water and wastewater around the region and treat it to the high standards for our customers.

During 2018–19, we produced less than 200 (199.8) kilotonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This is our lowest level in six consecutive years and is due to:

  • Our energy efficiency measures,
  • The generation of renewable energy on our sites for our use 
  • Cleaner power from the National Grid 

Our carbon emissions target for 2015 to 2020 is, as a minimum, not to exceed 2015 emission levels despite population growth and increased treatment standards.

This target was developed after listening to what our customers wanted in our 2015-20 business plan.

Our approach is to counteract increases in energy demand by focusing on energy efficiency and increasing renewable energy generation. Our 2015 emissions were 281 kilotonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

The chart below shows a breakdown of our emissions for 2018-19.

The reported emissions covers all our offices and operational sites in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for the 12 months from April 2018 to March 2019.

Emission sourceKilotonnes CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent)
On site fossil fuel combustion 4
Process emissions 65
Owned transport 4
Grid electricity 109
Business travel 0.5
Outsourced activities 11
Gross emissions 203
Renewable energy exported to grid 3
Net emissions 200

Solar Power

In 2017 we installed solar power at three of our large water treatment centres. The power we generate from our solar panels is used on site in Southern Water's treatment processes. The capacity from all three sites equates to 4 megawatts - the equivalent to providing power for 1,000 homes for an entire year. This saves over 1,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

We're being more efficient in how we use energy, and embracing innovative technology solutions.

We’re proud to run an annual site energy optimisation programme. Each year we conduct detailed energy assessments at our key energy consuming sites. This process yields fantastic energy saving opportunities: like limiting the run times of certain items of non-critical plant, and identifying where small operational changes can result in big energy savings.

A concentrated effort since 2014 has meant that we have been able to reduce energy consumption at our high consuming sites by an average of 13GWh per year, that’s an energy equivalent of 26 trips to the international space station!

We are also working with our supply chain and infrastructure partners to incorporate more innovative energy-efficient technologies into our business, including increasing biogas and renewable energy yields through additional treatment processes, and using our own assets to help balance the demand on the national grid helping to ensure that our region maintains a reliable and efficient source of power.


Our region received 260% of its historical average rainfall during the winter of 2013–14 after some of the worst weather on record.

During the extreme weather, we had to tanker and pump stormwater to prevent it overwhelming our sewers and people’s homes.

Damage caused by flooding in 2007 cost the UK economy £3.2 billion. Following these floods, Sir Michael Pitt was asked to carry out an independent review by the Government into what happened and what should be done differently in the future.


Surface Water Management Plans

Recommendations from the Pitt Review included the production of Surface Water Management Plans for high risk areas. 

Defra has funded the development of a number of Surface Water Management Plans in our region.


Local authorities

Local authorities are responsible for producing the plans, in collaboration with the Environment Agency and the water industry.

We're currently working with the relevant county councils and unitary authorities to help develop these plans.
Read more about those that are under way below:

East Sussex
Hampshire and Isle of Wight
West Sussex

Water resources

To adapt to changes in the climate, we need to make better use of existing resources and develop new ways of supplying extra water with minimal impact on the environment.

We're closely monitoring weather patterns and water use to ensure the company has sufficient resources to meet the demand for water in the South East.

We do this through our Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP).

The WRMP is a 25-year plan and is updated every five years in coordination with our Business Plan. It includes our plans to secure drinking water and reduce leakage, as well as to meet future challenges, eg:

  • Climate change
  • Population growth
  • New legislation.

We published our WRMP for 2015–40 in October 2014. It underwent public consultation between May and August 2013, during which time we spoke to thousands of customers and community groups.


Our metering programme

As the population of the South East continues to rise, the amount of water we need to supply will increase even further, placing more pressure on local rivers and the already stressed natural environment.

We installed water meters for the majority of our customers in a five-year programme – an important part of our plans to manage water demand.

By reducing the demand for water, our metering programme is also helping to manage the power consumption of our water treatment works.

People on a meter tend to reduce the amount of water they use by 10%.



Tackling leakage is also a priority. We continue to deliver some of our lowest ever levels of leakage. Find out how leaks occur and who is responsible for repairing them.


Water efficiency

We help customers understand how to save water through our community activities and information on our website.

Check out how to make your home more water efficient.