DROUGHT conditions will not affect water levels for North East customers, suppliers have reassured.
The prospect of hosepipe bans loomed large as the Government officially declared the South East to be in drought, joining other parts of England which have been badly affected by dry conditions since last summer.
Yet – as a summit was planned for water companies, farmers and wildlife groups to discuss potential water shortages – Northumbria Water sought to allay fears for its 2.6m users that its reservoirs are positively brimming.
And the firm says it may be able to step in and help neighbouring water suppliers if they fall into difficulties.
“First and foremost we want to reassure customers that we are in a fortunate position because of everything we have. They will be protected,” said a spokesman for Northumbria Water.
“If we could do anything to help others then we would look at it, but it is a very difficult and costly thing to do.” Earlier this week, photos were published showing dog walkers plodding along the dry, stony riverbed of the River Greta in County Durham and reservoirs in Kent sitting virtually empty, prompting fears of a return to drought conditions which have previously swept the nation.
Some water companies say rivers and groundwater supplies are at levels lower than 1976 – the hottest summer since records began – and that they need significant rainfall to stave off implementing measures to tackle drought.
In huge contrast, the west of the UK and North East reservoirs are awash with water, with Northumbria Water’s reservoirs – including its flagship Kielder Water – currently at 85% capacity.
Northumbria Water said the company has been able to step in and help struggling suppliers in the past and that they would consider aiding them again.
However, lots of factors have to be considered first.
“We are one of the best regions for water and although it has been a drier winter our resources are healthy,” said the spokesman.
“Derwent is the lowest at the moment on about 60%, but others, in Teesdale for example, are at 100% so at the moment we have about 85% capacity.
“We haven’t yet been approached by any other suppliers over giving them water, but then again we are all in contact all the time.
“Getting it to other areas is difficult – water is extremely heavy and extremely costly when you talk about pumping it and to transport it far and wide would be almost cost prohibitive.
“It’s also difficult to treat – the water in one area is very different to water in another, and treatment systems differ, so the whole process has to be looked at.
“There is also the environmental impact which needs considering.
“In 1995 our neighbours in Yorkshire were very short of water and as a consequence we worked with them to set up a supply which saw 1,000 tankers a day take water from here down to Eccup reservoir near Leeds.
“It’s not impossible. If it became a very severe challenge then as a company we would do what we could to assist our colleagues, particularly in neighbouring areas.”
He added: “But our prime concern is to maintain, improve, enhance and secure the supply for our customers.”