The Challenge


Parts of the densely-populated South East have less rainfall per person than many Mediterranean countries. Prolonged dry spells affect our rivers and aquifers and reduce what we can take (abstract) from them to water crops and supply homes and businesses.

The current system for managing abstraction of water from rivers and aquifers was set up in the 1960s and was not designed to protect the environment or manage competing demands for water. Defra is embarking upon a programme of Abstraction Licensing reform to balance the need of all water users, but this might take several years.  In the meantime water companies try to safeguard aquatic ecosystems, while delivering drinking water to the the UK population, which could exceed 70 million by 2026.


While recognising the links between water supplies and the environment, and dealing with the pressures of climate change and population growth, the Water Resources in the South East group is also responding to the challenge of:

  • conforming with planned changes to the abstraction regime
  • ensuring that existing and new system that provide drinking water and treat wastewater are resilient to the potential effects of climate change
  • reducing our impact on the important environments that exist in the South East region and
  • taking investment decisions that will result in a plentiful supply of affordable water for everyone in the long term