Agenda item



Melissa Ahmet, Allesandro Marsili and Lina Nieto, from Affinity Water, gave a verbal update to Members.


Audio recording – 28 minutes 10 seconds


Melissa Ahmet, Allesandro Marsili and Lina Nieto, from Affinity Water, gave a verbal update to Members, including:


·         The water industry was an extremely complex system.

·         Affinity Water are responsible for supply from Surrey through to North Herts and this area is expected to experience population growth which will further impact on water supplies.

·         Chalk streams account for approximately 8-9% in this area.

·         This area has the lowest annual rainfall compared to other parts of the UK, therefore droughts will happen and this will be increasingly unavoidable due to climate change. It is important to make the system as resilient to this as possible.

·         No single action will solve the issues regarding water supply and combatting droughts and it will continue to be a problem as everyone requires water access.

·         Affinity Water has worked in partnership with others to try and improve the supply, including consumer groups, river action groups and local organisations and will continue to develop these partnerships.

·         Affinity Water was the first company in the UK to launch two consumer campaigns.

·         The network is very complicated and the Affinity Water network is made up of 17 companies and the system was not fully connected, so these would need to be joined up through investment in the assets to assist with moving water around the system from wetter to drier locations.

·         Water Resources Management Plans were detailed plans to demonstrate how supply and demand would be managed in the years to come. These demonstrates the issues and explain the mitigatory factors and these are scrutinised.

·         North Herts is an extremely dry part of the supply area, but Surrey has a lot of water. There needs to be a better way of moving water around the system to mitigate with the shortages experienced in some areas.

·         While there has been an increased focus on limiting leakage of water from the system, this action alone will not be enough to prevent water shortages with the planned increases in population and therefore better ability to move water around the system would support the work being done regarding leakage. 

·         Large schemes of intervention to improve the system will require a lot of planning and will take time to develop, but this is being explored not to deal with the expected increases in population.

·         In this area there will be a slight decrease in extraction from 2025 from 1477 to 1407 megalitres per day. This will not improve the issues, but will help to prevent the situation getting worse.

·         The Environment Agency has a system to flag where an area is at risk and this was flagged for Ivel Springs in 2015 and an investigation was begun by Affinity Water. This found that the extraction in Baldock had an impact on the spring.

·         The proposed augmentation scheme would help mitigate against the depletion of water at Ivel Springs.

·         The 90% over-extraction rate previously quoted was a very simple measurements and was very inaccurate as it did not take into account the full picture of the site. The Affinity Water rate estimated this to be 30-45%, which was still a problem and was roughly 10% higher than target. 

·         Water extraction is to feed consumers, if there was less consumption by customers then Affinity Water would extract less water. In comparison to other parts of the UK, this area is around 10-15 litres per person per day higher than the national average.


Councillor Jim McNally noted that it is not being refuted that that more water is being extracted that recommended from Ivel Springs. Ivel Springs has never been dry in winter, as experienced now, and the situation will be worse in the summer and this will eventually lead to an ecological disaster. He understood the dilemma faced by water companies who had a statutory obligation to provide water for users.


In response, Lina Nieto advised:


·         The water companies take the issue very seriously and the regulators ensure this area is heavily monitored.

·         The Water Resources South East consultation had just closed and this will look at regional planning between water companies, as it has become obvious companies cannot deal with these issues in isolation.

·         Drafting plans to deal with these issues, such as building reservoirs, but these will be long term projects and could take 15-20 years.

·         In the short term the focus will be on reducing leakage from the system and reducing the consumption of water by consumers.

·         It was important for local people to engage with the consultations taking place, as they can offer local insight and knowledge which otherwise water companies would not necessarily have access to.


The following Members asked questions:


·         Councillor Jim McNally

·         Councillor Steve Jarvis

·         Councillor Tom Tyson

·         Councillor Michael Muir

·         Councillor Michael Weeks


In response to questions Lina Nieto and Allesandro Marsili advised:


·         Leakage is calculated over a 3 year average, currently in year 2, and it was felt that by the end of year 3 the targets set by the regulator would be met.

·         The water industry has committed to reducing leakage by 50% in the next few decades.

·         The target is around 150megalitres per day across the entire Affinity Water area, but exact figures could be provided at a later stage if required. 

·         Extraction is based on demand and recharge is based on the weather. In some periods you will have fluctuation between extraction and recharge.

·         Climate change can have an impact on the recharge and chalk aquifers have very low retention of water.

·         There is no evidence that the extraction is affecting the situation long term – if there was no extraction the water would return to normal levels within a year.

·         There was no data specific in this area, as there was no flow measure historically. There has been monitoring since 2015 and the data available does not show a decline, but this does not show long term decline and anecdotal local evidence suggests it may seem lower.

·         The reservoir proposed at Abingdon was not wanted by local residents in the past, but this was now being explored again and it was hoped that the planning inspectorates would take a different view this time.

·         From 2022 onwards more substantial schemes will be processed and affordability would be explored, but this will need to be funded and will have an impact of customers’ bills.

·         Affinity Water had decided that shareholders would get no dividends, so all money will be invested in improving the system, until 2025 and would be further reviewed at that point.

·         Further, more accurate, figures on leakage can be provided and a meeting with the Head of Leakage set up to provide explanation, if required. It was expected that Affinity Water would hit their three year targets.

·         Planning authorities can support Affinity Water and reduce consumption of water by design on developments. It has been suggested that it be designed to limit 110 megalitres per person per day, with other authorities going further.

·         Affinity Water was only water based, so issues experienced with sewage in the area would be the responsibility of Anglian Water.

·         Supply 2040 and Supply 2050 policies were aimed at focussing on longer term connectivity of pipes and the system.

·         Over years public water companies have been brought and amalgamated into on larger company and there was a lot of focus on bringing together these previously separate networks, but this will take time and money.

·         Ofwat will allocate funds and this has to be stuck to and any underspend has to be handed back to Ofwat and there is not an ability to make money.


The Chair thanked Allessandro, Lina and Melissa for their attendance and presentation. He noted that it was good to hear that leakage was important to the company now and requested that the Head of Leakage provide leakage rates for 2001, 2011 and 2021 for both this area and the national averages, and this would show trends over the 30 year period.


Melissa Ahmet noted that there was further information available which would be shared with the Committee, Member and Scrutiny Officer for distribution.