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Water resources protected by innovative and unique environment plan 

11th June 2024

South East Water, as the first water company in the UK to unveil a 25 year plan for the environment, is reporting good progress in its mission to future proof local water resources – so crucial for its customers and the environment.

The plan, which aligns with Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, and was put into action a year ago, goes above and beyond South East Water’s statutory duties to provide a long-term solution to pressing environmental issues.

As a responsible business, which sources, treats and pumps more than 542 million litres of clean water per day for its 2.3 million customers, the company has a long history of protecting and enhancing its environment.

To keep rivers and underground water sources healthy and protect and enhance the natural environment while helping it adapt to a changing climate, the company reports it is getting some good results from actions underway detailed in the plan it is delivering with partners.

Near Basingstoke, Hampshire, farmers are growing cover crops to prevent nitrates from reaching the chalk aquifer. The company has installed a nitrate removal plant at the treatment works due to historic nitrate levels but hopes that one day, this will not be needed thanks to the cover crops.

South East Water worked over a period of two years with 200 customers, employees and stakeholders to shape this plan, before inviting more than 600,000 people to give their feedback through a public consultation.

Emma Goddard, Head of Environment at South East Water, said: “Water and the environment are intrinsically linked and we recognise that an important part of this is making sure we consider the environmental impact of our operations.

“But for us, it’s about more than just continuing to supply water – we care deeply about the environment and want to protect and enhance it for future generations. We also want to go above and beyond to exceed our statutory obligations.

“Because we know that making lasting change to the environment takes time and that no single organisation can do this alone, we’re working with others to deliver this plan from the start.

“Our 25-Year Plan is a long-term environmental strategy and is providing a framework for the entire company, to protect and enhance the environmental resilience of our supply area, short and long-term.”

South East Water has also completed a five-year long European research project, PROWATER, to understand how what is grown on top of a chalk aquifer can influence rainwater infiltration, water quality and biodiversity.

The native habitat here is chalk grassland – considered to be the UK equivalent of the Amazon rainforest – and chalk heathland (also rare) but has been taken over by planted woodland, as well as scrub and gorse. The company has taken out pockets of woodland, scrub and gorse to allow the native habitats to regrow and measured the results.

To find out more about the 25 year plan go to