SOUTHERN WATER appealed to the Environment Agency this week for permission to take water from the River Medway, even though it is running at a 30 year low.
The water company desperately needs Medway water to refill Bewl Reservoir, which is now only 36% full after a prolonged periods without rain.
Water is transferred to Bewl from the Medway when water levels are normal, but the Environment Agency stopped abstraction when flows in the river fell below a 275M litres/day limit in November.
The Medway is running at 31% below its seasonal average, said Environment Agency Kent manager Harvey Bradshaw.
But Southern Water wants to reduce fl ows in the Medway to 100M litres/day between January and the end of March by pumping 20bn litres of water into Bewl.
The water company last got permission for a similar operation in 1995.
Bradshaw said that the Agency 'would like to help Southern Water' but that there were concerns that reducing flows in the Medway so drastically would affect the river's ecology.
With flows cut by two thirds there may not be enough water to dilute pollution discharged into the river by sewerage and industrial companies, he said.
If abstraction from the river is not allowed water companies could increase groundwater abstraction instead.