- Take regular samples to improve our understanding of raw water quality, and identify potential sources and pathways of pollutants
- Characterise potential hazards in the catchment and understand the risk they pose to water quality
- Use Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping techniques to identify ‘high risk’ areas of pollution, and where we should focus our efforts
- Raise awareness of the current and emerging water quality concerns with key stakeholders, including farmers, Natural England, the Environment Agency and Rivers Trusts
- Work with landowners, farmers and other stakeholders to tackle the water quality issues we face
It's important that we work to improve the quality of the raw water we then treat to supply to our customers.
We're working with local farmers and landowners to protect the quality of our water at source, in ways that enhance nature and improve lives.
Around 85 per cent of our water supply comes from groundwater beneath our feet, in the chalk aquifers of the North Downs or Greensand further south. The remaining 15 per cent comes from Bough Beech reservoir, near Edenbridge, that is filled during winter with water pumped from the River Eden.
The water we supply to consumers has to meet strict drinking water standards, which include limits on pollutants such as nutrients, pesticides and other chemicals. Different land uses, such as agriculture, residential and industry, can introduce contaminants into the raw water supply by infiltration into groundwater or via surface run-off into rivers.
Catchment management aims to prevent pollution at source rather than relying on ‘end of pipe’ solutions, such as more energy intensive treatment processes. It is a more sustainable and cost-effective way of tackling water quality issues and can have many wider benefits for the environment and local communities too.
The groundwater and surface water catchments, where land use can impact raw water quality, are highlighted in the map below. These are the areas of focus for our catchment management strategy.
Groundwater sources supply seven of our eight water treatment works, accounting for 85 per cent of SES Water’s total supply. Despite being below ground, aquifers are vulnerable
to contamination from activities at the land surface. Once in the groundwater, some pollutants can cause water quality issues for decades.
The water quality issues:
- Nitrate contamination from both rural and urban sources, for example, fertiliser/manure application, livestock, septic tanks and sewerage networks
- Chlorinated solvent contamination – solvents are commonly used by dry-cleaners and during some automotive degreasing processes. Past poor practices around the use and disposal of solvents have polluted groundwater, and once there, contamination can persist for many years
We are engaging with farmers to raise awareness of the groundwater nitrate issue in these catchments, reminding them of nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZ) and the implications this has on-farm, and offering guidance and support where appropriate. We also work closely with our wastewater counterparts to understand and minimise the potential impact of discharges from wastewater treatment works and leaking sewerage networks on water quality in our groundwater catchments.
The Catchment Team liaises with the Environment Agency and local authorities to understand the potential current and historical sources of groundwater solvents and contaminated land sites.
Water quality in the Eden Catchment is important to us as water is abstracted from the River Eden into Bough Beech Reservoir, before being treated and distributed to our customers.
This makes up 15 per cent of our total supply.
The Environment Agency has designated the area a Drinking Water Safeguard Zone, identifying where actions and measures are to be targeted to address water contamination and avoid/minimise the need for additional treatment by water companies.
The water quality issues:
- Autumn-applied herbicides (e.g. propyzamide, flufenacet and quinmerac). Previously the pesticides metaldehyde and carbetamide have also caused water quality challenges
- Phosphate from both agricultural and wastewater sources
Agriculture is the primary land use across the catchment, which can lead to run-off of pesticides and phosphate into the river. Discharge from wastewater treatment works and septic tanks also contribute phosphate to surface water.
We are engaging with farmers in the catchment to raise awareness of the pesticide and nutrient issues, offering guidance and support where appropriate. As a drinking water only company, we work closely with our wastewater counterparts to understand and limit the potential impact of wastewater discharges on river phosphate concentrations.
For more information about the Eden Catchment, click here.
It’s important for us to work with farmers in our surface water and groundwater catchments. We engage with farmers to raise awareness of the pesticide and nutrient issues in our raw water sources and offer guidance and support in order to tackle the water quality problems at source.
SES Water can offer financial support for farmers in our target areas to protect water quality where initiatives are not covered by other funding streams, such as Countryside Stewardship. Past examples of how we have supported farmers include subsidising alternative plant protection products that are lower risk to water quality, and working with a farmer in one of our highest risk areas to improve pesticide handling by installing a biobed.
For more information, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Take a look at the Voluntary Initiative’s Advice and Resources page for information on how you can help keep pesticides out of water, inlcuding Water Protection Advice Sheets (WPAS) and the Check it Out Tool.
- Use the BASF When2g0 Smart Tool to improve application timings of quinmerac and metazachlor. The tool considers location, soil type, soil moisture and weather to give improved water stewardship advice for these herbicides to minimise the risk to water quality
- Are you in a Drinking Water Safeguard Zone or a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ)?
- Help protect water from agricultural sources of nitrate
Everyone can make a difference to the water environment. Find out how you can help protect water quality at the links below:
- Does your land fall within one of our catchments?
- Manage your septic tank
- Help protect water quality from non-agricultural sources of nitrate
- Report pollution incidents to SES Water (email@example.com) and the Environment Agency
The Catchment team work with a number of organisations across our groundwater and surface water catchments, including:
The South East Rivers Trust are experts in advising on and delivering nature-based solutions for water, e.g. wetlands, attenuation ponds and riparian buffers, that enhance river health and provide benefits to farm businesses. For more information click here.
Catchment Sensitive Farming work with farmers and organisations to improve water quality, providing farmers with free impartial advice through 1-to-1 farm visits, workshops and events, signposting farmers toward funding opportunities. For more information click here.
FWAG offers farm advisory visits, draws up plans for schemes such as LEAF, makes applications for funding such as Countryside Stewardship and supports other organisations in their delivery of environmental advice. For more information click here.
For more information, please contact the Catchment team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Ria Woodfield on 07741 616244.