Making sense of water neutrality

Developers wishing to build in the Sussex North Water Supply Zone may be required to produce water neutrality statements for new residential schemes.  Motion Director, Neil Jaques, is currently advising several clients about this latest challenge. 

Motion Technical Director Neil JaquesWater neutrality requires new developments to avoid exceeding the previous total water use volumes.  Demand for water in proposed developments can be significantly reduced, possibly by up to 85 litres per person per day.  The use of water-efficient fixtures and fittings, grey water recycling or rainwater harvesting, can all contribute to demand reduction.  But Neil cautions, “Provision of potable water is necessary for drinking, cooking and bathing and cleaning rainwater for these purposes is not usually advisable due to the prohibitive costs.”

An alternative option is to offset water usage against existing demand on the development or in the wider area.  Analysis of existing usage on sites for potential development to calculate existing demand, may make it possible to offset it against future uses.  If existing water demand is high, it may be possible to fully offset future demand against the existing use.  In the absence of an existing development, or where current water demand is low, further offsetting would be required.

Retrofitting council-owned properties or commercial buildings is possible for water demand offsetting.  However, strategies need to be set out by the relevant planning authorities to provide more guidance for housebuilders.  Developers could, for instance, be required to buy credits through a scheme.  They may also be required to contribute through Section 106 agreements.  Any such scheme could take several months to be established.

Neil adds, “It remains to be seen how this issue will develop, but it is clear that it will require a coordinated approach between developers, water companies, consultants and planning authorities to ensure that applications are not unduly delayed.”

For further details or a one-to-one consultation about water neutrality, flood risk or sustainable drainage, email

This article first appeared in the Winter 2021-22 edition of Insight.

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