Water neutrality and how it can affect you

Edition: November 2022

Water neutrality has been a hot topic for local councils in West Sussex since Natural England (the Government’s adviser for the natural environment in England) released a Position Statement in September 2021, requiring all new development in the Sussex North Water Resource Zone to demonstrate that it would be water neutral once built.

Hardham Water Works copyright Southern Water

With the winter weather now upon us, it might seem hard to remember that the summer of 2022 was one of the driest on record.

Although winter rains will help to fill up reservoirs, rivers and natural wells that we rely on for our drinking water, climate change is bringing longer hotter and drier summers. This means that Horsham District, along with other parts of the south-east, will continue to experience ‘water stress’ in our summer months.

One outcome of this water stress is water neutrality. The extraction of water from the ground near Hardham in Pulborough for us to use in our homes and workplaces has been linked to a decline in the quality of rare habitats in the Arun Valley. To protect this area, Natural England require any new development using water from Hardham to be water neutral - not increasing the demand for water above existing levels.

What is the council doing about this?

We have been working with the other affected local authorities, the water companies, the Environment Agency, Natural England and key government departments to produce a strategy that will enable our Local Plan to come forward and break the logjam of planning applications that has built up over the past year.

Going forward, we all need to find ways to save water including reducing our use, re-using water (such as washing-up water) and in the longer term, looking for other sources of water.

Doing your bit to help save water

  1. Get a water meter. Simply contact your water supplier and ask them for more information.
  2. Use your water meter to understand how much water you currently use. This will help you see how much water you can save by making simple adjustments to your routine like turning the tap off when brushing your teeth or swapping a bath for a short shower. Oh yes, and fix that dripping tap.
  3. Use the dual-flush button on your loo if you have one. Cistern Displacement Devices are just a fancy name for something you put in the cistern (a hippobag, a water filled sealed plastic drink bottle) and can save around 1 litre of water with every flush. Does your cistern leak? You can find out by putting a few drops of food colouring in the cistern and if it appears in the pan an hour later, it’s a simple fix for a plumber.
  4. Only run the washing machine or dishwasher when it’s full.
  5. There are several off the shelf fittings available that will reduce your water consumption. Low flow aerated shower heads mix air and water and feel like a normal shower.
  6. Install a water butt to collect rainwater in your garden. Use a watering can rather than a hose whenever you can.

Water companies like Southern Water offer free home visits to discuss your water use and can fit free water-saving devices in your home. Find out more on the Southern Water website.

For more water saving ideas, check out Water's Worth Saving and Waterwise.

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