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  1. Sarah Saunders @SSaundersITV

Making the water supply 'future proof' in the South East

This winter parts of the region suffered devastating floods - but the last few years have also seen hosepipe bans and the driest summer on record. Water companies, you'll remember, said the region was facing a 'water crisis'.

Well today South East Water has announced its plans to 'future-proof' our water supply for the next 25 years - making sure that our water keeps flowing. Sarah Saunders spoke to Lee Dance from South East Water.

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£9m of water pipe improvements in Sussex

South East Water has completed more than £9m of improvement works on the water pipe network in Sussex. It spent nearly a year removing 48 kilometres of old iron piping and replacing it with long-lasting plastic pipes.

Key projects included the £197,000 upgrade of a one kilometre long section of water main in Great Dixter, East Sussex and a £102,000 revamp of a 650 metre section of water main in Turners Hill, West Sussex.

Schemes for 2014/15 include a £600,000 programme to upgrade water main in Haywards Heath.

South East Water is over half way through a five year programme of investment. Between 2010 and 2015 a total of £390 million will be spent ensuring clean, safe water continues to be delivered to 2.1 million customers.

Our engineers and contractors have worked extremely hard over the past 12 months upgrading the equivalent length of 3,200 double decker buses which is a fantastic amount. The 14,500 kilometres of water main which we have hidden deep underground are like arteries in the body pumping water 24 hours a day seven days a week to our 2.1 million customers."

– Desmond Brown, Head of Engineering at South East Water

Complaints after water supplies disrupted

Engineers have worked throughout the night to restore supplies to thousands of homes in the South East, left without water after three water mains burst. The problems affected a huge area of Sussex from Ticehurst near the border with Kent down to Battle near Hastings.

South East Water told us that 3,000 houses had no water. Some householders have told us the water company response was too little and too late. Andrea Thomas reports.

Consultation over water supply

South East Water is inviting customers to have their say on plans to secure water supplies in Sussex.

Two public exhibitions have been planned to show customers how the recently published Water Resources Management Plan will affect them.

The exhibitions are being held on June 4, between 12-8pm, at Arlington Village Hall in East Sussex and June 21, 12-8pm, at South Heighton Village Hall in Newhaven.

The company will also show how it proposes to meet the growing demand for water between 2015 and 2040.

Everyone who uses water has a part to play in helping to ensure that there is a secure, sustainable supply of water in the future.

We want to share our proposals with our customers to ensure that their views can be properly considered and taken into account in the final plan, which is expected to be published in early 2014.

– Paul Seeley, Asset Director at South East Water

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Waste water recycled into drinking supplies?

We are also proposing to share water with other water companies through longer, larger, pipelines; recycle treated wastewater for later use as drinking water, and build a new reservoir in Kent and extend our existing Arlington Reservoir in East Sussex.

Combined, our proposals will deliver an extra 167 million litres of water a day – just enough to meet that predicted shortfall, and give us a little bit of flexibility too.

– Paul Seeley, Asset Director, South East Water

Massive water shortage predicted by 2040

South East Water is proposing building a new reservoir Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/Press Association Images

South East Water has revealed that the region is facing a shortfall of around 145 million litres of water by 2040.

To tackle the problem it is suggesting a raft of radical solutions including the construction of a desalination plant and new reservoir in Kent, reusing waste water and introducing an efficiency programme to reduce people's consumpation.

Paul Seeley, Asset Director at South East Water, said: “We’re operating in the driest region of the country, and yet that same region will see more people and more homes over the next 25 years.

“We’re proposing a range of options that make what water we already have go further – such as reducing leakage and delivering metering and water efficiency programmes."

Burst main causes water supply problems to 800 homes

People living near Northiam in East Sussex were left without water overnight after a water main burst. Around eight hundred homes and businesses in the Beckley, Clayhill, Four Oaks, Peasmarsh, Playden and Rye Foreign were affected.

The water main was a strategic one, meaning the problem affected a large area. The burst happened at about 1am on the morning of Wednesday 20 March. South East Water sent in teams to monitor the damage and locate the problem.

"We currently estimate approximately 800 properties may have low water pressure or no water.

"We are currently in the process of organising bottled water do be dropped off at several locations in the area for customers affected to collect and use while repairs continue.

"I would like to apologise to the customers affected for the inconvenience this is causing and reassure them that we are doing all we can to restore supplies as soon as possible."

– Simon Robertson, Head of Distribution for South East Water

Repair teams have now fixed the water main. The water firm said it expected supplies to return to normal.

450 homes in Sussex are without water

Up to 450 homes are without water in the village of Ninfield in East Sussex. South East Water say it's due to a series of power cuts in the Bexhill area which means the company's pumps are unable to operate and move water around the network.

Simon Robertson from South East Water, said: “Our Technicians have been working hard overnight and throughout today to pump water back into the reservoir, however levels remain low and consequently up to 450 properties in the Ninfield area are without water.

“Bottled water is available for local residents to collect in the car park of The Blacksmith’s Inn, High Street, Ninfield.”

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