Council calls "drought summit"

Bewl reservoir is currently just 48% full Photo: PA

West Sussex County Council is hosting a "drought summit" today following the hosepipe ban announced for most of the region from April 5.

Dep Leader Lionel Barnard will meet with representatives from Southern Water and South East Water.

Also invited are the Environment Agency and Portsmouth Water, which is not introducing a hosepipe ban but has called on its customers to show "voluntary restraint" in their water usage in the coming months.

Cllr Barnard, responsible for Communities, Environment and Enterprise, said: "Obviously as a Council we will be leading by example and doing all we can to reduce our own water consumption.

"We already have several initiatives underway and the fact that we are reducing the number of buildings we operate from will mean using less water and reduce our carbon footprint generally.

"The meeting will be an opportunity to find out what we can do as a local authority to advise residents and businesses on what steps they can take to reduce water use now, and what steps can be taken if the situation does deteriorate.

"We serve a population of 800,000 people and have a business community ranging from companies on industrial estates to many farmers and growers, so there will obviously be a great deal of concern.

"It will also be a chance to explore with the water companies what can be done in the long term once the current water shortage is over."

Cllr Pete Bradbury, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, added: "A severe drought event could impact on West Sussex in a variety of ways including the disruption of our infrastructure, health and social care systems, and by putting the vulnerable at greater risk.

"We all hope the situation will not get worse, but as a responsible local authority we have to make sure we have plans in place to assist our most vulnerable communities."