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Developing a regional plan for the South East

Water is essential for life. We need it for the wellbeing of our communities, schools, hospitals, and businesses, and for a healthy environment.

The water resources we rely on are under pressure, especially in the South East. The impacts of climate change are being felt today, affecting how much water is available, when, and where. We need to supply water to more people, businesses and public services as the population of our economically dynamic region continues to grow, and we must do this while protecting and enhancing the environment.

On this page you can read about:

  • How we're working together to develop a plan for the South East
  • The work to look at new strategic resource solutions

Wroughton Reservoir

Working together to develop a plan for the South East

There's a serious water security challenge facing the South East driven by a combination of climate change, population growth, the need to provide higher levels of protection to the water environment and increasing how resilient the region’s supplies are to drought. Meeting these challenges requires a joined up approach.

We're working as part of Water Resources South East (WRSE), an alliance of the six water companies who operate in the South East alongside other water users, to develop a plan for a safe and dependable water supply for future generations.

WRSE has taken a fresh look at the challenges facing the region and how best to solve them. It's looked beyond the boundaries of the individual water companies to identify the options that'll provide resilient supplies more efficiently and provide wider benefits to communities across the region.

WRSE has considered over 2,000 potential options including leakage and demand reduction measures, catchment and nature-based solutions and new sources of water. We need a combination of these measures to safeguard water supplies and reduce the risk of us running out of water during prolonged periods of drought.

The emerging plan for the South East

WRSE has consulted widely, and taken advice from technical and environmental experts, in developing the emerging plan for the South East.

We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we’ve used the best available evidence to identify solutions that provide water in the right place at the right time. The investment needed in our future water supply will be significant. Crucially though, as well as providing the resilient and sustainable water supply we need, it can bring wider benefits for the economy – through investment and job opportunities, for society – through recreation and leisure activities and for the environment – through habitat creation and enhanced biodiversity.

We must make bold decisions and act now to ensure we have the water we need in generations to come. The consequences of delaying action would be huge for all of us.

WRSE held a consultation on the emerging regional plan from January to March 2022. The consultation was an important stage in the development of the plan and an opportunity for people to contribute their views. In April 2022 WRSE will publish a summary of the feedback received and will take this into account in the ongoing work to develop a best value regional plan, which will be published for consultation later this year. In the meantime you can read about the emerging plan and keep in touch with WRSE.

Looking at new strategic resource solutions

To ensure we have a secure and sustainable water supply for future generations and protect the environment, we need to invest in new sources of water. Here we provide information on the strategic resource solutions that we're exploring with other water companies.


Ofwat provided funding to investigate and develop strategic water resource solutions that will benefit customers and wider society, and help to protect and enhance the environment. The aim of the funding was to encourage collaboration and accelerate the development of solutions. The Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID), a joint team made up of the three water regulators: Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate, was set up to support and oversee this work. RAPID is overseeing more than a dozen projects across several water companies including recycling, desalination, transfers between regions and reservoirs to identify optimal regional solutions that could be started in 2025-2030.

Map  of areas covered by different water service providers

RAPID has introduced a new regulatory process which sets out the activities that need to be completed, allows comparison of the solutions at regular intervals, and has clear checkpoints, or gates, to assess progress and determine which solutions should be taken forward for further work. Learn more about RAPID and the gated process.

What are our strategic resource solutions?

Working in partnership with other water companies we're looking at five potential solutions – transfers within the south east and into the south east, water recycling and a new reservoir in Oxfordshire. We're examining the feasibility of these solutions to understand how much water they could supply, how much they'll cost to build and operate, their carbon footprint, and the wider benefits they could bring to the environment and society.

As with much new infrastructure development, not every element is popular, particularly among those who live near their proposed locations. We want to work with these local communities as we develop the plan. Stakeholder groups have raised questions on some of the solutions being considered. Listening and responding to concerns is an important part of the process and we've compiled information to respond to commonly asked questions.

A new reservoir in Abingdon

One of the solutions being proposed in the emerging plan for the South East is a new reservoir in Abingdon – it'll provide a secure water supply as well as wider benefits to the local communities and the region.

  • The proposed reservoir will provide around 290 Ml/d of water for customers across the south east
  • It'll be landscaped and planted to encourage greater biodiversity and create places people will want to explore
  • We'll work with the country’s leading landscape and environmental experts to create new carbon capturing habitats. Thames Water has a long and successful track record of doing this at the London Wetland Centre where we've worked for over 30 years with the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust to create one of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions
  • We'll work closely with Historic England and the Oxford County Archaeologist’s department to ensure that all areas of potential interest are fully and appropriately investigated
  • The reservoir will enable the creation of new, accessible leisure and recreational facilities including walking, cycling, fishing, birdwatching and a wide range of water sports for all. There's also potential to host major, national and international sporting events with access to new facilities for local people
  • We'll work with local organisations to support improvements to local transport infrastructure – better roads, better facilities for cyclists and improved access for all

Did you know?

Thames Water was one of the original partners in establishing the award-winning London Wetland Centre.