Permission sought to replenish reservoir despite recent rainfall
A water company has applied for a drought permit amid flood alerts and following days of heavy rain.
Southern Water said "exceptionally low rainfall" has prompted its decision to ask the Environment Agency for permission to pump water from Kent rivers to top up Bewl Water reservoir near Tunbridge Wells.
It comes as five flood alerts are in force in the county, some of which warn of rising river levels in Maidstone and Eden Brook after heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Environment Agency.
It has been consistently wet in the area near Bewl over the last week, the Met Office said.
There was 11.2mm of rain in 24 hours on December 29 according to weather station data collected near Bewl, a spokeswoman said.
There was another 10.4mm on December 30, 8.8mm on December 31, 6.2mm on Monday, 10mm on Tuesday and 9.2mm on Thursday.On its website, Southern Water said: "Following exceptionally low rainfall during winter 2016-17 and during October and November 2017, Bewl currently holds less than 43% of its maximum 31,000 million litres capacity.
"Recent rains are definitely helping but we need at least average rainfall during the remainder of the winter to get Bewl back to where we need it to be.
"The permit provides additional refill if rainfall and river flows remain low."
The reservoir provides water to hundreds of thousands of people across East Sussex and Kent.
Both counties are "water stressed" but the latter has experienced two "exceptionally dry winters", the company said.
Bewl Water was at 38% capacity on December 28 after a dry winter where there was only 77% rainfall, according to the latest published records.
The company said it needs the permit to safeguard water supplies to reduce the need to restrict water usage in the summer with hose pipe bans.
This would be a short-term measure with water taken in the winter to have less of an environmental impact.
If approved, the application, which is open to objections until January 12, would allow the company to pump water from the Medway and Teise rivers up until March 31 when they are flowing at a lower than normal level of 150 million litres a day.
Showers were anticipated across Kent on Friday but the rain is expected to die down towards the weekend when it is due to turn colder, a Met Office spokeswoman said.