Sussex already facing summer drought

Despite the recent heavy snow in the Sussex area, one of the driest January’s on record means that the region’s reservoirs are not as full as they should be at this time of year; leading South East Water to warn that residents could face a ban on sprinklers and hose pipes come spring and summer.

With rainfall figures last month of less than half the average for January, all the good work that was done by December’s wet weather has been undone and one of the main Sussex reservoirs, at Ardingly, is less than half full with spring just around the corner and green-fingered residents keen to get started on garden maintenance projects.

The Arlington reservoir, which is fed by the River Cuckmere, is faring slightly better, but experts in both Sussex and Kent are more concerned about the underground reservoirs which remain worryingly empty. Almost 75% of the area’s drinking water comes from these hidden aquifers and there is a real risk that shortages could affect more than hose pipes and sprinklers if weather conditions don’t change soon.

The Head of Water Resources and Environmental at South East Water, Lee Dance, warned that even the recent heavy snowfall won’t make a significant difference to reservoir levels, as it takes one foot of snow to create just one inch of water. Meanwhile, the freezing temperatures are making it much harder for any surface water to find its way into the stricken underground reservoirs where it is most needed.

South East Water is doing its best to alleviate the problem by carrying out urgent repairs on the water and sewerage systems in the area to try and prevent wasteful leaks as well as launching a campaign in the local media urging Sussex residents to use less water wherever possible. Local people can do their bit to conserve water by installing water butts to collect rainfall for use on the garden, as well as fixing any dripping taps in their homes.