Agenda item

Water & Sewerage

Presenations from Affinity Water & Thames Water


The chair moved this item to item 7 on the Agenda


J. Doe gave a brief introduction.  This is a report on Water and Sewerage provision in Dacorum which Members requested as part of the recent discussion on the Work Programme.  JD introduced Jake Rigg, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Affinity Water and Mark Dickinson, Development Planning Manager at Thames Water.  There is a short covering report to introduce this item and reference to the emerging Infrastructure Delivery Plan which Members will be familiar with and produced as part of the Local Plan work.


Mark Dickinson, Thames Water gave his presentation – a copy has been circulated via email.


Following the presentation questions were asked as follows.


Cllr Silwal asked about the Asset Management Plan which covers five years but MD talked about this being a long term plan for 25 years, will the Asset Management Plan be extended or is it a different plan?  MD replied that their Asset Management Plan is what they are going to deliver over the next five years, but the long term plan for 25 year plan for water, resources and drainage matters will be split up into five year chunks so there will be five chunks that feed into that more strategic plan.


Cllr Douris asked about the incremental increases, raw sewage in peoples gardens during heavy rain, the responses to planning applications and objections and how to contact Thames Water.  MD responded that all catchments are split up into sewerage drainage area codes and each pumped section of the network has a unique code.  All codes have trigger levels and are reviewed depending on that level.  Flooding issues are a concern and customers are prioritised and trends investigated.  With regard to planning application and objections, there are two reasons why Thames Water wouldn’t object, one is due to costs but the main reason is they have a duty to provide, maintain and extend the network, as per Section 98 of the Water Industry Act.


Cllr McDowell asked about the report that has been circulated and Thames Water responses regarding the large scale sites and the lack of detail and seeks reassurance.  MD replied that Thames Water is the largest water company in the UK and covers 96 Local Authorities and they get consulted on all the site allocations and all sites are looked at.  A broad brush approach is taken and they will advise on whether or not it is felt that the site is going to need off-site infrastructure.  The developers will discuss the site with them once the site has been allocated within the Local Plan or provide supporting evidence for their development for inclusion within the Local Plan and support them in that.  Cllr McDowell asked if they have fears of capacity being a limiting factor to development in Dacorum in any of the areas.  MD replied no.


Cllr Rogers asked about the telephone number to report flooding issues provided in response to Cllr Douris’s question and MD apologised if it was the wrong number and will find the right number and qualify it.  Cllr Rogers also asked that whilst they are an infrastructure provider what about the current situation regarding the HS2 and the three planned motorway service areas on M25 close to Dacorum and what would get priority, local housing or larger infrastructure developments.  MD replied that the duties under the Water Industries Act are to serve sanitary fixtures and fittings and beyond that it becomes trade effluent and then the discharge is subject to negotiations and Thames Water would have to understand what the breakdown is with regard to what is the statutory duty to serve the development and what is above and beyond the requirements.


Mr Kazer asked his questions, noting that, paragraph 1583 of the Affinity Water report states that it is subject to developers and customers reducing their consumption and asked if this statement applies to all of the developments proposed in the DBC’s emerging Local Plan.  He also asked how is this going to be achieved by DBC given its role in planning policies and conditions, and given that there is a large gap between consumption allowed by building regulations, and the consumption actually existing in Dacorum, and bearing in mind the substantial growth in demand arising from the Local Plan and that the reliance on changing consumer behaviour is incredibly hard to do. Regarding paragraph 1579 of the Affinity Water’s report which states “there is sufficient water supply in the region”, he asked whether that statement covered all the developments proposed in the emerging Local Plan which runs until 2038 and by what percentage will abstraction from the chalk aquafer need to increase to achieve this.


Jake Rigg from Affinity Water answered that it does cover all developments across Affinity Water supply area and they are encouraging Local Authorities in their Local Planning processes to adopt within the new developments the more stringent target allowed. How this is going to be achieved will be shown through the presentation but the Water Resources Management Plan is an adaptive plan and means that the cheapest way for everyone to balance supply and demand in the short term is to reduce demand.  Finally with regard to the amount to be taken from the chalk aquafer, since the publication of the Water Resources Management Plan there is a greater environmental focus particularly on the chalk aquafer to say how do we, over time, move away from abstracting from chalk ground water in sources that affect the Gade and the Bulbourne by building new assets and speed that up by reducing demand - all of which will be discussed in the presentation.


Cllr Birnie asked Jake Rigg to give his presentation.


MD from Thames Water advised that the contact telephone number for Thames Water is 0800 3169800.


Cllr Birnie noted that Thames Water also supply water to the Tring area and, if there any differences between Thames Water and Affinity Water’s approach, he asked that MD would intervene MD explained that he is not an expert on water and he imagined that there would be very similar approaches, normally the twin track approach of looking to reduce before they look to taking more water.


JR reported there are three aspects, supply, upgrades and demand management.  There is significant new growth in Dacorum.  Affinity Water plans for this future growth in several ways, Water Resources Management level – a major strategic level, Hydraulic Demand level – a granular level looking at new connections and plan for growth.  JR explained with regard to the environment that 55% of their abstraction comes from chalk ground water sources.  A number of these are in Dacorum and they have an impact on chalk streams particularly on low flows.  Last year it was announced that Affinity Water’s ambition is to end unsustainable abstraction from these chalk ground water sources over the next 20 years.


Cllr Bhinder asked JR to clarify how much water is abstracted JR confirmed that it is 55%.  Cllr Bhinder felt that people would be confused that due to the rainfall we experience that we are still abstracting water from the natural sources and returning untreated water and would like JR to comment.  JR replied that the aquafer levels are currently slightly above average.  With regard to building reservoirs it would mean they would need to be built at significant distances from Dacorum but they are looking at working with landowners to build very small reservoirs as an option.


Mr Kazer asked whether the ambition of Affinity Water and Thames Water is to turn it into a KPI to monitor and report to the Board on progress to get to the end of unsustainable abstraction from the chalk aquafer JR confirmed that it is already with Affinity Water’s Board.  MD replied that Thames Water also has a plan for Water Resources Management which sets out what the plans are for the future to reduce abstraction, and encouraging customers to recycle more and use less. 


Cllr Birnie asked MD if he could supply some information for the Committee on the Plan at a later date.


JR returned to his presentation and explained what big strategic upgrades are required.  There are smaller tactical interventions and then they scale upwards and Affinity Water has a process to establish what supply and demand is required in terms of new demand/housing growth, and will apply environmental constraints and then effectively list the options.  These lists contain many options.  The key options in this case are utilisation, bringing water from further away, bringing more water from the Thames valley and big strategic regional options.  Affinity Water has access to water at Grafham reservoir which doesn’t feed the Dacorum area directly but does have implications for the area and in particularly the chalk streams.  This comes through a pipe track to Sundon and Affinity Water are in the process of applying for planning permission to upgrade the small treatment works there which would allow them to bring that water further through the network.  Another step is to bring more water from the Thames valley.  Strategic Resource options will require using new sources ie reservoirs in Oxfordshire and South Lincolnshire and there are another additional two options, one being the Thames to Affinity Transfer and potential transfer from Birmingham using the Grand Union Canal.


Cllr Beauchamp asked if the River Gade abstraction and the planned reduction talked about some years ago has been met.  JR was unable to provide figures but could confirm that there has been a reduction at Piccotts End and is happy to report back on the figures in writing in due course.  Cllr Beauchamp asked about the innovation and encouraging people to use less water, as he feels that people are not aware of exactly how much water they really do use daily and asked whether any thought has been given to using a similar process to the electricity board with smart meters to measure people’s water usage on a regular basis JR confirmed that, like Thames Water, Affinity is installing smart meters. However, Affinity Water are looking at the same smart meters and other devices, looking at machine learning and artificial intelligence to be able to model usages to track demand.


Cllr Timmis said that every year in the summer a monthly email is received from Affinity Water saying that water is running short and there is a need to be careful. So despite the suggestions and assurances about how you are going to be able to get water from elsewhere for these extra people who will be living in the area, how can this will be delivered in reality?  JR replied that it is planned for with all water authorities on the same basis under the guidance of the Environment Agency and DEFRA and is very strictly regulated so all the housing and demand growth is accounted for.


Cllr Ransley asked how the water will be brought from Birmingham on the Grand Union Canal when a lot of the CRT equipment, locks etc are out of date JR replied that the scheme will look at what the problems are and there is a process where water companies are allowed, in developing the big strategic resource options to work with a series of partners in a phased process to upgrade.


Cllr Birnie asked if information could be provided on the mitigations in terms of supply that Affinity Water are working on and the timescales involved to ensure that they correspond with DBC’s expansion plans  JR confirmed that this can be provided in due course.

JR then explained Demand which falls into three areas, Household demand, Non-household demand and Leakage.  With regard to Leakage Affinity Water has a target and to be able to achieve this there are several projects that are underway to identify leaks. With regard to Demand there is a target to reduce demand and there is a programme of several activities.  A campaign called “Save Our Streams” has been launched plus they are working with new house builders/developers in getting their developments down to zero additional water use.  Also a campaign is being launched working with the ultra-high users.



Cllr Birnie said that he has been very interested in both submissions which have been extremely enlightening and feels his colleagues would agree.  The report was noted.


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