[Updated – July 17]
Southern Water, with Portsmouth Water in tow, are currently engaged on a public consultation which will run until August 16th, putting their case for a vast new development programme which would make fundamental changes to the operation of the Havant Thicket Reservoir, construct an environmentally questionable industrial-scale Water Recyling plant at Brockhampton and dig a massive network of interconnecting pipelines under the town and westward across Hampshire.
This multi-million pound investment programme may well be attractive to Southern Water’s shareholder community but it will not endear them to their customer base unless significant progress can be demonstrated first on cleaning up the company’s appalling record on pollution and sewage disposal.
The HWTWR project is the latest incarnation of Southern Water’s proposals to the Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID), the oversight body made up of OFWAT, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate. The RAPID process is forcing the pace of development, enabling projects such as the HWTWR project to be declared as ‘National Strategic Infrastructure Projects’ which can therefore be developed under Development Control Orders from central government. As such, Havant Borough Council will have little or no say on any of this development.
If this concerns you, and it should, then please take the time to read this post and sign up to the consultation process to make your voice heard through the online channel provided. The links are provided at the bottom of this post.
The priority for investment and action on the Southern Water sites at and near Budds Farm must be on making significant improvements to the capital assets and company processes for waste water and sewage handling. Building highly energy intensive new plant such as the advanced Water Recycling plant and the High Lift Pumping Station, should be secondary until clear evidence and sustained improvement is reported by the regulator.
Southern Water’s record on pollution and sewage disposal
In parallel with this consultation, the Environment Agency has just published its report on the 2021 Environmental Performance Assessment of the country’s water and sewerage companies. Once again, Southern Water trail the pack at the bottom of the table, showing a further decline from their already poor 2020 performance.
Southern Water’s constantly evolving ‘Water for Life’ consultation
The terms ‘Water Transfer’ and ‘Water Recycling’ have resurfaced in the latest approach by Southern Water to clean up its image. However, the meanings of both terms seem to have subtly changed since the company published its ‘Water for Life’ strategy last year.
The Water for Life consultation brochure covered a number of options based around three solutions to the predicted water supply shortfall.
- Water Transfer – The transfer of excess fresh water from other regions of southern England, such as, from Wessex Water, Bristol Water and/or South West Water, via new pipelines from the west.
- Desalination – A proposal to build a state of the art desalination plant at Ashlett Creek, near Fawley.
- Water Recycling – A proposal to build a state of the art advanced water recycling plant either near Peel Common, Fareham, or near Budds Farm, here in Havant.
The first solution sought to move fresh water from regions in the south of England which had excess capacity, to the south east where Southern Water predicted potential future shortages. A relatively simple alternative, with proven technology and a low carbon footprint, while achievable with a nationalised industry, would hardly have proven a hit with the privatised water utility shareholders.
The second and third solutions, ‘desalination’ and ‘water recycling’, referred to state-of-the-art industrial plants new to the UK, either of which would use the same energy-intensive reverse osmosis filtration process to purify incoming water at the molecular level. Novel technology with a high carbon footprint which outputs 70% clean drinking water at the expense of 30% concentrated waste. The solid waste is sent to landfill while warm, concentrated liquid waste is discharged through outfalls into the Solent.
Southern Water’s preference, its ‘Base Case’, was the second option noted above and consultation continued with the intention of constructing a desalination plant at Ashlett Creek, near Fawley, on Southampton Water. To drive the project forward, Southern Water bypassed the local authority consultation and planning route and sought agreement from central government to follow the Development Control Order process, terming the project a ‘National Strategic Infrastructure Project’. The DCO approach effectively cuts out local consultation, the most recent example affecting Havant borough being the attempt by AQUIND to build its electricity interconnector.
Following a strong campaign by the Ashlett Creek community, supported by New Forest District Council, the New Forest National Park and a fully engaged local MP, Dr. Julian Lewis, Southern Water withdrew the desalination proposal and assumed tacit agreement by the public to Water Recycling at Havant. The fact that the 2021 consultation received scant publicity outside the Fawley area and that it only attracted 143 online respondents and 37 mailed in responses seems to have been ignored.
In December, we reported that Southern Water’s Base Case would now be to pursue industrial Water Recycling near Budds Farm, on a site initially assumed to be Bedhampton Wharf (‘Site 71’ shown below), until recently used by Lafarge Tarmac for landing dredged aggregates for the construction industry.
According to the recently published consultation brochure, this site has now been dropped given that part of the site is designated as a ‘mineral safeguarded site’. The permanent loss of a working aggregate wharf in Langstone Harbour could further weaken the commercial position of the harbour which has suffered financially since Tarmac closed its operation.
The site currently selected is Brockhampton West, ‘Site 72’ in the image below, the site sold off by the Council to a private investor less than two years ago. Clowes Development, the property investment company which bought the site from HBC, has probably just seen the value of its investment rise substantially. If this development gets full approval, then tunnelling upwards through the former landfill into the new WRP could prove entertaining.
The Hampshire Water Transfer and Water Recycling project
Southern Water’s approach has now changed. Gone are potential water transfer joint projects with the south west of England and instead, Southern Water is working as part of Water Resources South East building a closer working relationship with Portsmouth Water through the ‘Hampshire Water Transfer and Water Recycling’ project.
The Southern Water introduction to the new consultation states:
“We’re consulting on our Hampshire Water Transfer and Water Recycling Project which will ensure we can take less water from the sensitive chalk streams of the River Test and River Itchen during a drought, while keeping taps running and toilets flushing.”
“The plans are centred around the wider Havant Thicket Reservoir project which we’re funding and developing in collaboration with Portsmouth Water. This Project is separate from the current, approved plans for Havant Thicket Reservoir.“
The last sentence there is significant. The approved plans for the Havant Thicket Reservoir are based on the condition that the source water for the reservoir would be the fresh water from the local chalk streams topped up by the pure spring water from Brockhampton Springs. In order to accept the output from the new Water Recycling Plant at Bedhampton Wharf, Portsmouth Water will have to submit a planning application to Havant Borough Council for a change of use to allow recycled water into the reservoir. This is potentially the only component of the Southern Water project which will be under HBC Planning control and for which residents could provide comment. If the Development Control Order is approved, all other aspects of the project will be taken out of local authority oversight. For this reason, your contribution to the current consultation is important.
The image below shows the wider scope of this proposal. Water Transfer in this case no longer refers to the transfer of fresh water from neighbouring regions into the Southern Water / Portsmouth Water area, but simply refers to the many miles of pipeline that will be laid between Budds Farm, the Havant Thicket reservoir and the final treatment works at Otterbourne, near Winchester, where the blended output from the Havant Thicket reservoir will receive final treatment to render it sufficiently high quality to enter the supply network.
The map below shows the local area around Havant, showing the routing for the pipelines and the siting of the Water Recycling Plant at Bedhampton Wharf.
Southern Water appear to have parked the plan to bring in a waste water feed pipe from Peel Common as shown in the following image from the first round of the consultation, last year. We would expect that pipeline to reappear once the initial period of consultation has passed.
Looking to the future, the RAPID forward programme 2022-23, makes two interesting points. Firstly, it seems that water transfers into the Southern Water area from new quarry based reservoirs in Wessex and Bristol Water regions are still ‘on the table’. It also appears to suggest that further part-processed waste water may be heading towards Havant from the Poole area.
But that that’s jumping ahead. The scope of the current proposal currently excludes the importing of waste water from anywhere other than Budds Farm.
Consultation access and document links
The table below sets out a number of links to the current (2022) and previous (2021) consultations.
|2021 – Southern Water ‘Water for Life – Hampshire’ Consultation||This document is the 2021 SW Consulation Brochure, which put the Base Case for desalination. It’s worth referring to consider the alternative proposals that have previously been aired.|
|2021 – Southern Water ‘Water for Life’ Consultation feedback report||It’s worth reading this document to understand the deficiencies of the 2021 consultation. With only 143 respondents to the online consultation, the strength of any conclusions drawn might be considered questionable. It’s particularly interesting to note the respondent comments on lack of public visibility of the consultation, and of the confusing complexity of the material available. The same complaints can already be levelled against this current 2022 consultation process, materials for which are very hard to find.|
|Hampshire Water Transfer and Water Recycling Project Consultation Brochure||Take this link to open the 52 page 2022 Hampshire Water Transfer and Water Recycling Project brochure|
|Scheme Development Summary||This 103 page ‘summary’ is where you’ll find the meat of the matter.|
|Book of Maps||This document is what it says, just a book of maps relating to the ‘Scheme Development Summary’. Unfortunately, the resolution of the PDF is so poor that you cannot zoom into any map without it pixelating.|
|Start Point for 2022 HWT&WRP Consultation||Take this link to sign on to the current consultation process.|