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A precious resource

image depicting Stannon Lake
Stannon Lake
Ensuring we meet the region's demand for water is our prime responsibility. Read on to find out how we do this.

Although the South West is traditionally one of the wetter regions of the UK, making sure our customers have enough water depends on investment in capturing, storing and transporting this precious resource.

Reservoirs, connecting pipelines, boreholes and massive pumps are just some of the essential infrastructure we need to be able to provide sufficient water for all our customers.

We are committed to ensuring a safe and continuous public water supply. But we must take account of an increasing population, the needs of the environment and the effects of climate change.

This plan is all about how we at South West Water manage water resources on our customers' behalf to ensure we have enough water for everyone.

South West Water has successfully avoided water restrictions for 18 years through investment in expanding our reservoir network, pumped storage schemes and the careful management of our water supplies.

Ultimately our goal is to continue to prevent water restrictions, with the exception of extreme circumstances, while ensuring our supplies are efficiently managed and delivered.

Where does our water come from?

Surface water sources, such as reservoirs and river intakes, provide approximately 90% of the South West Water region's water supply. Local reservoirs are supported by three large strategic reservoirs: Colliford, Roadford and Wimbleball.

In the South West Water area, water-bearing rocks (aquifers) are limited. Therefore groundwater sources, such as springs, wells and boreholes, only account for 10% of our water supplies. These are located mainly in East Devon. This is different to other regions - for example, Wessex Water gets 75% of its water supplies from groundwater.

During the winter months, when river levels are healthy, we abstract water from rivers with the reservoirs providing back-up supplies. The river and reservoir systems are linked together by a network of pipes, which enable us to transfer water around the region.

Initially we make use of the 17 smaller, local reservoirs. When the storage level in these reservoirs drops to a certain level, we make use of the large, strategic reservoirs, Colliford, Roadford and Wimbleball.

By using the network of pipes we are able to move water around to balance dry periods in one part of the region with wetter periods in another. We are also able to pump water from rivers into our reservoirs, rather than waiting for them to refill naturally.  

Changes since 1996

Since 1996 (the last year the South West Water region had water restrictions):

  • We have reduced leakage from our network of pipes by 40%
  • 80% of domestic customers now have meters (compared with 8% in 1995). Customers who switch to a meter tend to use 15% less water as a result

We have invested heavily in making sure we have secure supplies:

  • We have been innovative in ways of increasing our reservoir storage, for example converting two former clay pits in Cornwall at Park and Stannon
  • We have invested in pump storage schemes at Wimbleball and Colliford to improve resilience
  • We have increased the capacity of our water treatment works
  • We have improved our ability to move water around the region
  • We have improved the efficiency of our works.

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