Warning millions must be spent to stave off Norfolk water shortages
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As Norfolk swelters in the hottest weather for more than a year, a stark warning has been issued that millions of pounds will have to be spent to make sure there is enough water for the county over the next 25 years.
Bosses at Anglian Water have warned that without immediate investment, Norwich and the Broads, Hunstanton and Fenland will face water shortages between 2015 and 2040.
They say Greater Norwich and The Broads are expected to be in water deficit - where demand outstrips demand - of around 10 million litres per day within the next two and a half decades.
Experts say the Fenland area is expected to be in a deficit of 1 million litres per day by 2040.
Water company chiefs are proposing that more than £32m should be spent in Norfolk and the Fens between 2015 and 2020 to keep up with the increased demand for water, with even more investment needed in the longer term.
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Population growth, climate change and the need to protect waterways such as the River Wensum and the Norfolk Broads, is all placing a strain on resources in one of the country's driest areas, water bosses say.
A spokesman for Anglian Water said; 'Contributing to the stresses in these areas are climate change, a burgeoning population and the fact that our region is home to many wetlands and conservation sites of national and international importance, which need protecting.
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'Greater Norwich is a growth hotspot with its population predicted to increase by around 75,000 in the next 25 years. 'This will significantly increase the demand for water in that area. This additional strain on water resources is compounded by nearby areas that are environmentally sensitive, such as the River Wensum and the Broads.'
Anglian Water has launched a consultation asking people if they want millions spent to reduce leaks - which could cost up to £25m a year.
It also asks whether customers think the company should spend an extra £400m over the next 10 to 15 years to reduce the risk of water restrictions, such as hosepipe bans, during droughts.
The company is also asking whether it should use more than £8m to get more people in Norfolk and Fenland on water meters, which water bosses say can cut water use.
And there are two specific projects in the pipeline for Norfolk. One is a £2.1m scheme to transfer water to Hunstanton from Rutland and Northampton - areas where demand is not expected to outstrip supply.
That, Anglian Water says, would cut the environmental impact on the North Norfolk Coast and could be in operation by 2015.
Another major scheme could see the point where water is drawn from the River Wensum moved into Norwich, away from an environmentally sensitive area at Costessey.
Because of the potentially harmful effects on protected fish such as lamprey, brook and bullhead, along with a type of snail and crayfish, £18.9m could be spent to instead draw water from a point in the river near the Heigham Water Treatment Works in Norwich.
Anglian Water says that could happen from 2015.
Peter Simpson, managing director of Anglian Water, said: 'In the Anglian region we face particular challenges with some of the driest and lowest lying parts of the UK, and we support a population that is growing fast.
'If we took no action, by 2030 we would have a severe water shortage of around 550 million litres each day. That's roughly half the water we currently supply every day.
'This plan builds on the positive work we're doing already and shows how we intend to safeguard against potential future water shortages.
'To achieve this while still supporting economic growth, not just as a water company, but as a region, we need to innovate and collaborate to transform the future.'
When asked if the investment would lead to water bills going up, a spokesman for Anglian Water said: 'We aim to keep customer bills as low as possible, and while we can't guarantee they won't ever go up in future, we can guarantee that money will be targeted at making the improvements they wanted most.'
She added that earlier this year the company launched a Discover, Discuss, Decide campaign asking customers where their priorities lay and where they wanted their money spent.
The draft Water Resource Management Plan is available at www.anglianwater.co.uk/water-resource-management
Customers can have their say on the proposals by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org