26th August 2003

Answers Demanded on Stansted Airport Water Supply

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has established from Government sources that serious difficulties are anticipated with water supply if an extra runway was added to Stansted Airport.  The campaign group is calling for clear answers to the concerns raised by the Government’s own studies and for assurances about future water supply arrangements and household charges.

A report by consultants Halcrow, commissioned by the Department for Transport, has highlighted water supply as a major issue in connection with plans for an additional runway at Stansted, stating:

“From a regional perspective, the available water resources are virtually fully committed…  Large increases in passenger numbers significantly increase the airport’s demand for water and also within the surrounding residential areas that provide the human resource base for the airport.  It may be very difficult to meet the increase in demand even through supply and demand management and water saving technology water conservation.” [Note 1]

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has also acknowledged the difficulties.  In response to questions from a member of Stop Stansted Expansion, DEFRA admits that water resources in Essex are already tightly balanced between supply and demand and has advised that specific measures under consideration for the future include:

*  Piping water from other regions
*  Desalination plants
*  Re-use of ‘grey water’ and recycled effluent
*  Widespread household metering
*  Investment to increase reservoir capacity [Note 2]

Essex is already the driest county in the UK and will become progressively drier in the years ahead as a consequence of climate change.  Expansion of Stansted Airport would have important consequences for local water supply not only because airports themselves are major users of water but also because of the population influx which would be necessary to support an airport the size of Heathrow.

“Stansted Airport already uses 12 million litres of scarce Essex water resources each week,” said SSE Chairman Norman Mead.  “With an extra runway this would increase to about 50 million litres for the airport alone.  The additional 41,500 households which would move into the area if an extra runway was built at Stansted would add about another 110 million litres a week to demand.”

Norman Mead continued:  “Of course there are ways of increasing water supply but it isn’t cheap when you start piping water over long distances or building desalination plants.  We want an assurance that these major investment costs would be recovered directly from BAA and not through an increase in everyone else’s water bills.  We also want a full explanation of what is meant by re-using ‘grey water and recycled effluent’ and an assurance that there are no plans for compulsory metering for every household.”

“The overwhelming majority of local people do not want to see an airport the size of Heathrow on our doorstep and it would add insult to injury if this were also to result in water supply problems and higher water bills for the entire local community.  We should also not forget that farming is a vital part of our local economy and its water needs must not be placed at risk by the huge additional demand which would be caused by airport expansion.”

Stop Stansted Expansion is currently in correspondence with the Anglian Region branch of the Environment Agency, OFWAT, the Department of Transport and DEFRA for further clarification on these issues.



[1]  ‘SERAS Stage Two Appraisal Findings Report’, commissioned by the Department for Transport and prepared by Halcrow, February 2002, paragraphs 9.7.5, 9.7.10 and 9.7.11, pages 300-301.  (Halcrow classify this issue as ‘High* Adverse Impact’ – presumably adding the *star for emphasis.)

[2] DEFRA letter dated 9 June 2003 – on behalf of the Secretary of State (Margaret Beckett), replying to points raised by a member of SSE.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits