Anglian Water considering purchase of surplus supplies from Severn Trent
Anglian Water bosses are considering buying surplus water from the Midlands in order to help maintain precious supplies to drought-hit homes.
More than 18 months of below-average rainfall has left the East suffering its most severe drought for a century – but the shortages are not equally spread across the country.
So while Anglian Water (AW) was forced to introduce its first hosepipe ban for 20 years last week, neighbouring Severn Trent Water (STW) has more than enough to meet its customers demands.
The company has offered to pump 30 million litres of raw water daily from groundwater boreholes in Birmingham to Gainsborough, 80 miles away in Lincolnshire.
It is estimated to be enough to supply 100,000 homes in the AW region.
Although STW has not revealed how much it might sell the water for, a spokesman said it would not seek to make a large profit from the deal, but would make a 'small margin' to cover costs.
But AW made a categorical assurance to its customers that any money invested in drought-mitigation measures would not have an impact on domestic water bills, as a five-year plan for charges had already been agreed with industry regulators in 2010.
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Although the transfer could be in place as early as June, AW bosses said it was just one of a number of options under consideration.
Simon Love, the company's head of drought response, said: 'We are talking to Severn Trent about this idea, and it's one that we are taking seriously.
'We are exploring a number of options to help support the drought-hit region, including the movement of water across water company boundaries.
'In the short term, though, it's vital that everyone takes steps to save water in the home. Large-scale support like this scheme could help, but even if we are able to make it work, it won't mean we can cancel this summer's hosepipe ban.'
If agreed, the STW scheme would be the largest-scale transfer of water into East Anglia from a neighbouring region.
The proposal is being explored by a Collaborative Drought Planning Group, and any final proposal would need to be ratified by the Environment Agency before it could be put into operation.
David Essex, water strategy manager for STW, said 'Technical discussions are under way and this could happen as early as June.
'We will soon be able to confirm if we are in a position to be able to help our neighbours while having enough to keep our own customers in supply.
'This project could be a sign of things to come, as water becomes scarcer and needs to be moved around the country.'
AW is one of seven companies in the South East and East Anglia to impose water restrictions following two dry winters that have left reservoirs, aquifers and rivers below normal levels. Meanwhile, Essex and Suffolk Water, which provides services to thousands of homes in eastern and southern Norfolk as well as Suffolk, is among those who have not implemented a hosepipe ban.
AW spokesman Antony Innes said the company's 2010-15 service plan, agreed with water regulators Ofwat, meant customers' bills would not rise as a result of the drought.
'Any investment in drought response is not coming from customers' bills,' he said. 'It is coming from our money and our investors' money, who have invested �100m in tackling the drought.
'We are looking at a number of other options, including engineering schemes within the AW region, and working with neighbouring companies.'
Mr Innes said the downpours of rainfall during the Easter weekend, although welcome, would not have a lasting impact on the severity of the water shortage.
'We have been asked a lot today whether the wet Bank Holiday weekend affected the drought,' he said. 'Essentially, it has not.
'While spring and summer rainfall is helpful, it really is the autumn and winter rain which is essential for resources, and we have not had that for the last two years.'
Severn Trent Water is the UK's second biggest water company, while Anglian Water is geographically the largest, covering an area stretching from the Humber in the north to the Thames in the south. AW has 4.3million water customers, and supplies 1.2 billion litres every day.
?For more details on Anglian Water's hosepipe ban and its 'Drop 20' water-saving campaign, see www.anglianwater.co.uk/drought.