On Jan 11th, as part of the EYE (Eco, Young, Engaged) Project, students from schools across Worthing, Shoreham and Chichester attended a Q&A session with the CEO of Southern Water, Lawrence Gosden. The students asked pressing questions about sewage overflows, micro plastics, and smart meters.The EYE project was set up by Tim in 2008, to encourage young people to drive environmental action by facilitating schools, young people and adults to become partners in improving sustainability. The project originally involved schools in East Worthing and Adur and has now grown to provide schools throughout West Sussex with a platform to encourage students to drive environmental change and share best practice.
Tim said "It was great to see the well-researched questioning from our EYE students and they certainly gave Lawrence Gosden a good grilling. Clearly Southern Water’s shortcomings, particularly about excessive sewerage overflows remain a high-profile concern locally and this was a great opportunity for our young students to challenge the head of the company responsible head on and demand proper answers. He also gave various undertakings about the sustainability of water butts which are to be rolled out widely and full transparency over sewage releases and the EYE Project will be holding him to the pledges made."
Mr Gosden addressed concerns around sewage overflows. He outlined Southern Water’s plans to tackle the overflows and to provide water butts to a significant number of Southern Water customers to regulate water flow into their sewers in times of high rainfall. Southern Water trialled 100 water butts on the Isle of Wight, which led to an 80% reduction in sewage overflows in this area. Rainwater runoff from houses is stored in water butts, instead of flowing directly into the sewage system. The water butt controls the rate at which rainwater is drained into the sewer system to ensure capacity is not reached and therefore, reduce the number of overflows.
When asked about the material the water butts are composed of, Mr Gosden pledged only to purchase and distribute water butts if they are sustainably made.
Concerns were also raised about the cost of water bills in the context of the cost-of-living crisis. Lawrence Gosden demonstrated the steps Southern Water are already taking to address this, primarily their Hardship Fund which subsidises water bills and provides goods such as washing machines for those most impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.
In addition, the Chief Executive outlined his intention to complete the roll out of smart metres, 2025-30, which show consumers their water use, providing pointers of how to improve efficiency.
Regarding microplastics, Lawrence Gosden expressed his concern about microplastics in our seas, often caused by flushing wet wipes. He further highlighted the collective effort that must be taken to reduce the amount of microplastics entering the sewage system and our seas, which can have an adverse impact on the environment.
Video footage and further information about the event can be found on Tim's website at https://www.timloughton.com.