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Why do we need to plan ahead to secure our water supplies?

The number of people living in the South East is on the rise. The region – which includes London – is also the nation’s economic powerhouse.

Increasing demand for water means greater pressures and challenges than other regions. In fact, the whole of the South East region is designated as being in serious water stress by the Environment Agency.

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Rising population and economic growth will increase demand...

The South East is home to 19 million people and has almost as many businesses as the rest of the country combined – making up 37% of the national economy. With more than 28 million people visiting our region each year, total demand for water can reach six billion litres a day.

In the long-term, four million extra people will live here. This is why the South East could account for around 50% of the UK’s future water demand. Our estimates show we could need an extra 1 billion litres of water per day over the next 15 years.

And the water supply is under increased strain…

Climate change

More than half the region’s water (up to 85% in some places) comes from underground aquifers. These aquifers rely on winter rainfall to fill them up to meet demands for water in spring and summer. But climate change is having a huge impact on rainfall patterns – including how much rain we receive and when and where it falls.

Rainfall patterns vary every year, with some falling below long-term averages. February 2020 was the wettest on record, however July 2022 was the driest for almost 70 years. This variability makes it harder to plan a long time ahead with certainty of what the future holds.



The South East typically experiences droughts more often than other regions in the UK. This was shown in the summer of 2022 as water companies in our region were the first to introduce temporary use (or hosepipe) bans.

These bans are needed to protect the natural environment and help companies maintain essential supplies.

If we don't increase our resilience, we risk needing more severe restrictions on how we use water. The National Infrastructure Commission estimates the daily economic cost of this could be £1.3 billion.


Environmental protection

Balancing increasing demand for water while protecting and improving the environment is essential.

The South East is home to eight key rivers, and dozens of rare, iconic chalk streams. Over a quarter of the South East is a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty and 8% of the region is within National Parks. Protecting these habitats is of the utmost importance so we must ensure we strike the right balance.


Our aim is to secure our region’s water supplies for the future.

We consulted on our draft best value plan for South East England between 14 November 2022 and 20 February 2023.

To learn more about our proposals, visit our consultation site at: Water Resources South East Engagement HQ.


To get updates on what WRSE are doing to secure water for the future, submit your preferences and provide us your email address…





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