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Water resources FAQ
- Do you have enough water?
- We have a long tradition of meeting all of the water supply needs of our customers. We have not imposed a hosepipe ban since the record breaking drought of 1976, and our 2009 water resources plan continues to project a healthy surplus of water over the next 25 years.
- How much water is in your reservoirs?
- We have one impounding reservoir at Blithfield, but it also obtains significant amounts of water from the River Severn near Bridgnorth, and from 25 groundwater sources (each consisting of a number of boreholes). Reservoir levels at Blithfield will vary depending on the time of year, the demand for water, and on the amount of rainfall that has fallen onto the catchment above the reservoir. The most recent water resources position, including reservoir storage, can be seen on the water resources main page.
- How do you manage your water?
- Under normal weather conditions we will manage our water sources to meet demand for water at the lowest possible cost. During periods of extended dry weather we may operate to save as much water as possible, for example by taking less water from our reservoir at Blithfield and more from the River Severn. Some of the options available to us are described in more detail in our Drought Plan, which can be accessed on our drought plan page.
- Can I read your water resources management plan?
- Yes you can. Our latest water resources management plan can be found in our water resources section on this website.
- What is groundwater?
- Groundwater is rainwater that has soaked into the ground and is stored within the cracks and holes in the rocks below. This water can be used for public supply by drilling boreholes or sinking wells which allow the groundwater to be pumped to the surface. Groundwater is also important because it can flow into rivers and lakes where it can support a range of plants, insects, fish and other animals.
- What is surface water?
- Surface water is rainwater that has run across the ground and entered rivers or lakes. Some surface water also comes from groundwater which has flowed upwards to ground level.
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- How do you forecast demand?
- We forecast demand by examining in detail the latest national and regional projections for population and housing growth, and by considering recent and future trends in household water use. There are also other issues which we consider, such as the amount of water that leaks from our pipes, the amount of water our industrial customers may be using, the future demand savings that can occur as more customers pay for water using water meters, and the more people who save water in general.
- How do you take account of uncertainty in demand forecasts?
- The range of uncertainty around each demand component is identified and then grouped together with the uncertainties on the supply forecast. This overall uncertainty is called headroom and is included in our supply demand balance calculations.
- Where do you get your water from?
- We obtain water from 3 source types: the River Severn at Hampton Loade (40%), from 25 groundwater sources (40%) and Blithfield Reservoir (20%)
- What environmental impacts do your operations have?
- We take great care to manage our operations in a way that is sympathetic and/or beneficial to the environment and we work closely with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure consistently good environmental performance. Where there are potential conflicts between our operations and the environment we are committed to working with our stakeholders to understand these issues and to address them in the most cost effective way.
- How much more water do we use in summer?
- During the hottest and driest periods of the summer demand can rise by a further 23%. This is primarily from household garden watering.
Frequently asked questions about droughts
Please note, that there are no drought orders in place within our supply area.
- What is a drought?
- A drought is a shortage of water resulting from a period of low rainfall affecting people, agriculture, industry or the environment. Some droughts are short and intense while others are long and take time to develop. Every drought is different and there is no formal definition of a drought.
- We need wet winters to replenish supplies in reservoirs, rivers and lakes that have been used up over the previous summer. Often, following hot , dry summers, the amount of water is very low and needs plentiful winter rainfall to replenish it. If this natural process is disrupted a drought can occur.
- How do water companies manage a drought?
- All water companies are required by law to produce and maintain plans for the management of demand and water supplies during a drought. These plans are submitted to the Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs and are reviewed every year and updated once every three years. These plans set out a framework for management of a drought.
- We published an updated response to representations on our website on November 9th.
- We are committed to taking on board stakeholder comments on the Draft Drought Plan and will make appropriate amendments to the final plan which will then be published on our website.
- What steps can South Staffs Water take to restrict supplies?
- We can introduce a number of measures to help manage our supplies following periodsof prolonged dry weather or drought by restricting the ways in which you use water. These measures include:
- Hosepipe bans
We can prevent you from using, or restrict your use of, hosepipes and sprinklers to water your garden or wash your car. You can be fined for using a hosepipe or sprinkler when a ban is in place.
- Drought orders.
A drought order allows us to restrict the non-essential use of water by non-household customers.
- Emergency drought orders.
We can apply for an emergency drought order only in the most serious droughts. An emergency drought order allows us to limit the use of water in any way we see fit. If we impose an emergency drought order you will normally receive your water from a standpipe in the street or from a water bowser or tanker.
- Permission for drought orders and emergency drought orders is needed from the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
- Other than imposing restrictions, what else will South Staffs be doing in response to a drought?
- We will operate our sources of water in a way which aims to protect those sources suffering most from the drought which is likely to mean we are operating expensive sources. We will carry out a public awareness campaign to encourage customers to use water more efficiently. We may carry out more work to reduce leaks, such as increasing our leakage budget, employing additional leakagecontractors and targeting leaks in the areas mostat risk. We may also seek to reduce the water pressure in the system as this will help reduce leaks and limit excess demands. Finally, we may apply for a drought permit from the Environmen tAgency. A drought permit from the Environment Agency allows us to take additional water supplies from other sources. Drought permits also allow us to alter restrictions on the sources we already use so that we can maintain an adequate supply of water.
- How will I know if there is a hosepipe ban in my area?
- We will give at least two weeks' notice of the hosepipe ban by advertising a notification in at least two newspapers circulating in our area of supply and on our website. This notification will make clear the areas to which the ban applies, the date on which it is to start and tell customers affected how to make representations should they wish to do so.
- How will I know when the ban has ended?
- We will seek to revoke the hosepipe ban as soon as weather and demand conditions allow. We will advertise a revocation notice in at least two newspapers circulating in the area affected and on our website. This notice will take immediate effect on publication.
- Exactly what uses of water are banned under a hosepipe ban?
- A hosepipe ban covers a wide range of uses in domestic households and seeks to limit the use of potable water other than for drinking, cooking and washing. The uses of water which are prohibited are covered by law and are:
- Watering a garden using a hosepipe
- Cleaning a private motor-vehicle using a hosepipe
- Watering plants on domestic or other non-commercial premises using a hosepipe
- Cleaning a private leisure boat using a hosepipe
- Filling or maintaining a domestic swimming or paddling pool
- Using a hosepipe to draw water for domestic recreational use
- Filling or maintaining a domestic pond using a hosepipe
- Filling or maintaining an ornamental fountain
- Cleaning walls or windows of domestic premises using a hosepipe
- Cleaning paths or patios using a hosepipe
- Cleaning other artificial outdoor surfaces using a hosepipe
- How often can I expect a hosepipe ban to be imposed?
- Despite the drought conditions experienced in 1995 and 2005/6 and the dry summer of 2011, we have not imposed a hosepipe ban since the record drought in 1976.
- We use a water resources model to examine the amount of water available during historic drought years. This model simulates over 80 years of data on flows into our main reservoir at Blithfield and on the River Severn, our other main source of water. This model shows that a hosepipe ban could be required twice if this period of climate was repeated. Therefore, the expected frequency of a hosepipe ban is equivalent to once in every 40 years. However, this does not mean that if a hosepipe ban is required one year it can not be needed for another 40 years. It means that over a long period of time a hosepipe ban would be required on average once every 40 years.
- Exactly what uses of water are banned under a Drought Order?
- Ordinary drought orders allow water companies to prohibit non-essential water use at commercial and institutional premises and do not seek to limit the use of potable water for drinking, cooking, washing and other legitimate uses associated with the operation of those businesses or premises. The main uses of water which are prohibited are covered by law and are:
- Watering outdoor plants on commercial premises using a hosepipe except for plants that are grown or kept for sale
- Filling or maintaining a non-domestic swimming or paddling pool except for a pool that is open to the public
- Filling or maintaining a pond
- Operating a mechanical vehicle-washer whether automatic or not
- Cleaning any vehicle, boat, aircraft or railway rolling stock using a hosepipe
- Cleaning the exterior of non-domestic premises using a hosepipe
- Cleaning a window of a non-domestic building using a hosepipe
- Cleaning industrial plant using a hosepipe
- Suppressing dust using a hosepipe
- Operating an automatically operated flushing cistern in any building that is unoccupied and closed.
- How often can I expect a drought order to be imposed?
- Despite the drought conditions experienced in 1995 and 2005/6 and the dry summer of 2011, we have never imposed a drought order.
- We use a water resources model to examine the amount of water available during historic drought years. This model simulates over 80 years of data on flows into our main reservoir at Blithfield and on the River Severn, our other main source of water. This model shows that a drought order could be required once if this period of climate was repeated. Therefore, the expected frequency of a drought order is equivalent to once in every 80 years. However, this does not mean that if a drought order is required one year it cannotot be imposed for another 80 years. It means that over a long period of time a drought order would be required on average once every 80 years.
- Because we have to seek permission from the Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs for a drought order, and this process can take some time, it is likely that we will apply for a drought order more frequently than once every 80 years but that it would not be imposed. This is because the drought conditions are likely to have improved during the period in which the application is being made and assessed and therefore the ban is no longer required.
- My water supply is metered and I pay for the water I use by volume so why can't I use as much water as I want?
- The price water companies are allowed to charge for water supplies is set by the regulator Ofwat. This price is determined on the basis of being able to maintain supplies during average summers. The price does not include costs to provide safeguards in the event of extreme conditions. It would be too expensive for the water companies, and therefore for customers, to allow unlimited access to water all of the time. Allowing unlimited water use during long periods of very dry weather would also be damaging to the environment.
- Will my bill be lower, or can I claim compensation, because of
- You cannot claim compensation as a result of restrictions on non-essential use, such as washing your car. This is because water companies have to plan on the basis that they may have to impose restrictions during long periods of very dry weather or drought. This means that the bills you pay already reflect the potential for restrictions. However, you may be eligible for compensation if your water supplies are interrupted as a result of emergency drought orders and you have no water for cooking, washing, drinking and flushing the toilet.
- My neighbour is continuing to use a hosepipe during a hosepipe ban. What should I do?
- You could mention to your neighbour that there is a hosepipe ban in force as they may not be aware. If you feel uncomfortable with this you can contact us at South Staffs Water and we will contact your neighbour.
- I have just laid new garden turf. What am I supposed to do during a hosepipe ban?
- If the hosepipe ban is in place before you lay your turf we would ask you to consider whether you can delay doing this. If you have already laid your turf and the ban comes into force then we will consider a temporary concession whilst your turf becomes established. However, we would ask you to think carefully about how much water is needed and remind you that turf is very resilient.
- I am old or disabled and can not carry a heavy watering can to water my plants. What am I supposed to do during a hosepipe ban?
- Have you got a friend or relative who could help you? If there is no one you can ask to help then we will consider concessions where there is difficulty in complying with the hosepipe ban. However, we would ask that at all times everyone thinks carefully about watering plants and only does this when absolutely necessary.
- I have a garden pond with fish in it and they need the water level to be maintained. Can I fill my pond during a hosepipe ban?
- You cannot use a hosepipe to fill your pond. If your pond has fish and you need to keep it topped up then you can do this using a bucket. We would advise you to turn off decorative fountains or unnecessary recirculation systems to minimise evaporation and only top up when absolutely necessary.
- I am a window cleaner. Can I still continue with my business when a Drought Order is in force?
- You cannot use a hosepipe to clean windows during a Drought Order. You should consider using a bucket or offering your customers a waterless service during this period.
- I operate a car washing business. Can I still continue my business when a Drought Order is in force?
- You cannot use a hosepipe to wash vehicles during a Drought Order. However, systems which recycle water will be able to continue.
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