What is Water Neutrality and How Can Councils adopt a robust policy?

What is Water Neutrality and How Can Councils adopt a robust policy?


 Water is an essential natural resource and the world’s freshwater supply is shown to be gradually decreasing year by year. Environment agencies and institutions have started to explore the concept and process of Water Neutrality as people across the globe begin to recognise the importance of their water footprint. It is a possible solution to reduce water usage and encourage positive actions within communities.


Water neutrality is the process whereby communities and institutions maintain a balance in their water usage by investing and funding projects that help to increase freshwater supply and reduce water usage. The development of a water neutral project will not add pressure to the overall water demand of a region. It will eventually have a net-zero impact on natural water supplies.

Water neutrality will become a necessary requirement for all developments in the future as the existing water supply in the world decreases. After a new development is constructed the total water demand should be the same as it was before the development was started.

There are 3 steps to achieving water neutrality:

  1. Reduce water usage
  2. Reuse water
  3. Offset water

Reducing water usage – Efficient water devices for taps, toilets, urinals, showers and other appliances such as low flush systems. Smart meters can indicate to consumers how much they are using and whether there are any leaks.

Reusing and recycling water – Rainwater harvesting systems from roofs, which can either be on an individual dwelling basis or for whole new developments. Grey water recycling from showers, etc which can be used again but requires a separate set of pipes and drains.  Black water recycling is usually the water recycled from toilets which needs to go through several treatment processes.

Offsetting water – Funding water efficiency audits. Retrofitting houses, schools and public buildings to enhance water efficiency.

It is estimated that a water neutral home could save about 112,000 litres of water per year and around 43.8 kg of carbon emissions produced from the water supply. A home might reduce water and energy bills by approx. £44 per year. It also is good for the environment as it reduces the amount of water taken from rivers, lakes and groundwater sources.

Gatwick Sub Regional Water Cycle Study

Water neutrality is not currently defined in legislation but is drawn from the Gatwick Sub Regional Water Cycle Study which states that ‘For every new development, total water use in the Sussex North Water Supply Zone after the development must be equal or less than the total water use in the region before the new development.’  Southern Water’s Sussex North Water Supply Zone is the first area in the country to apply this requirement. However, water neutrality will increasingly be necessary in other areas as demand for new housing is implemented. The Environment Agency has produced a list of areas which are subject to serious water stress. This covers many water companies in the Midlands and in the South East, including Thames Water which serves the Cranleigh area.

The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has concluded that water neutrality will become a key factor in balancing the Government’s policy of delivering an accelerated rate of housing growth against constraints on the current and future availability of water resources. Achieving 100% level of water neutrality is an aspiration and it may not be possible or appropriate to set such a demanding target. Drivers and constraints are likely to be applied which will result in a lower %.

Nutrient neutrality and water neutrality are separate issues

Nutrient neutrality and water neutrality are separate issues with different causes but both effectively create a moratorium on new development. The Local Government Association has established guidelines to tackle both of these problems. Cleaning up our water courses is a crucial issue and is the responsibility of both the water companies who are still discharging raw sewage into rivers on a regular basis and the farming industry which will need to be given better guidance on the use of fertilisers and livestock practice in areas affected by nutrient neutrality.


The level of action required to address water supply issues can be summarised as follows:

Water Companies – Reduce leaks, provide infrastructure to increase supply and to change practices to reduce demand for water.

Industry and agriculture – Change practices to reduce demand for water.

Owners of existing homes and buildings – Change practices to reduce demand for water.

Developers – Build to the highest standard of water efficiency.

In conclusion, we as individuals or through pressure groups, must continue to press our Local and District Councillors for the introduction of both nutrient neutrality and water neutrality in their Planning Policies so that improvements can be made in coming years for the benefit of future generations.

Reference sources:

Sigma Earth water neutrality and how it can be achieved


Environment Agency 


West Sussex Council


Local Government  


What is Water Neutrality and How Can Councils adopt a robust policy?

Are Cranleigh’s rivers and streams polluted?

Does Cranleigh have rivers?  yes!

Are Cranleigh’s rivers and streams polluted? 

Many springs arise in and around Cranleigh and venture towards the main rivers. Many are piped underground, under housing and roads and pop up all around you.

You may have spotted people poking around in local waterways with nets, buckets, and jars? A task force team of local volunteers, some from the Civic Society, have for some time been testing the local streams and brooks for pollution. We are performing this task under the guidance of Glen Skelton from Surrey Wildlife Trust. Through them we are in contact with the local council representatives and the Environment Agency. Angela Richardson, our local MP, has also been involved along with Liz Townsend BEM (Parish, Borough and County Councillor) and Marc Scully, Chair of Cranleigh Parish Council.

It all came from the Flood Forum back in May and the numerous complaints made to Thames Water about the seemingly incessant burst pipes and leaks.

The testing takes two forms. One looks for pollution and is quite simple. We have been supplied with testing kits to check the phosphate levels in local streams.

Phosphates are chemical compounds that contain phosphorous. Phosphorous is a key nutrient that both plants and animals use for growth and development. Whilst phosphate is essential for plant and animal life, too much of it can cause a form of water pollution known as eutrophication

Government guidance recommends that rivers should not exceed annual mean phosphate concentrations of 0.1mg per litre. If too much phosphate is present in the water, the algae and weeds will grow rapidly, may choke the waterway, and will use up large amounts of precious dissolved oxygen which happens when, in the absence of photosynthesis, the algae and plants die and are consumed by aerobic bacteria.

Unfortunately, we are finding huge level s of phosphate in the waters in and around Cranleigh. We hope to narrow down the sources, but we have been advised that many could be from ‘missconnections’ in residential wastewater. In other words, outflow from washing machines and dishwashers which have been plumbed into the surface water network by mistake and so end up in the river.. It does not appear to be sewage-related, as some people fear.

The nets, on the other hand, are part of the kit to check the presence of healthy river fly larvae and other minute aquatic inhabitants. The good news is these appear to be fairly plentiful. As a team we are checking many parts of the various waters before, in the middle and after they flow through Cranleigh.

We are finding cased caddis larvae, freshwater shrimp, brown olive, (no not the edible snack) and the invasive American signal crayfish (we don’t have any native crayfish left in Cranleigh). Incidentally, once caught it is illegal to return signal crayfish to the river and they have to be humanely dispatched. – see link: https://waterways.org.uk/about-us/news/signal-crayfish

In summary there are people around trying their best to keep Cranleigh in the manner in which we would like it. Volunteers welcome.

Trevor Dale

Chair, Cranleigh Civic Society

The River Wey is a tributary of the River Thames in south east England. The Cranleigh Waters or Bramley Wey rises at a source close to the sources of two tributaries, the Thornhurst Brook and Coneyhurst Gill in the rural north of Cranleigh, each flowing initially southwestwards to Vachery Pond, before turning to run northwards as the border of Wonersh and Bramley to meet the Wey at Shalford.[1][2] From the Vachery Pond to the Wey, Cranleigh Waters is closely paralleled by the disused Wey and Arun Canal, which crosses the river at Gosden Aqueduct.[2]

Flood Forum News, request for waterways task force

Flood Forum News, request for waterways task force


We are pleased to tell you that our MP for Guildford, which includes Cranleigh, Ewhurst, Alfold and Dunsfold,  Angela Richardson,  held a meeting held via ZOOM 18th June 2021.  Councillors and Officers from Cranleigh Parish Council, Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council were joined by Thames Water, Environment Agency and Surrey Wildlife Trust, plus Cranleigh Civic Society.


Cranleigh Society called for immediate replacement programme 5 years ago – what has happened? Thames Water say that when there are bursts the section is replaced, any type of pipes, and 14km are being replaced in and around Cranleigh soon.  No further tests have been done for safety of drinking water.  New map of asbestos cement pipes requested.

WATERCOURSES CLEARANCE – keeping rivers flowing

Cranleigh Waters joinsthe  River Wey at Bramley & Shalford. A section runs down the Ewhurst Road.  The river carries huge amounts of rubbish, both natural and man made, and the grilles get blocked up. Local residents watch and report this often.  The Environment Agency engage Biffa to clear the mess and take the rubbish away, sometimes during a storm. They use CCTV to monitor.  Incident phone line 0800 80 70 60, Floodline 0345 988 1188

Riparian duties – owners of housing must ensure the ditches and waterways are kept clear on their land. see here 


Holdhurst Brook,  Avenue road, Longpoles Pole, Orchard Gardens, Bax Close, Horsham Road, Nightingales, Waverleigh Road, Brookside, Fortune Drive;      

Littlemead Brook, Littlemead Industrial Estate;

Nuthurst Stream, Wyphurst Road, Peregrine Close, East view Cottages, St James Place;

Alderbrook Stream, Guildford Road, Rowly


Surrey Wildlife Trust urge local land owners and farmers to work together towards obtaining government grants to “go wild” – Environmental Land Management Scheme -ELMS, for well designed Natural Flood Management Schemes -NFMS.  Councillors to contact locals and encourage them to build wetlands up stream to reduce flood risk and drying up of  waterways in summer.

New housing estates have been and are being built – Surrey CC do not consider the accumulative effects of this on flood risks from surface water runoff during planning applications. Nuthurst Culvert and Glebelands playing fields get inundated these days probably due to the housing estate along Amletts Lane. . 

Nothing has changed in terms of planning permissions. 

Actions – All public to tell all councils every time there are flooded areas. 


In the last 5 years nothing has changed to improve Cranleigh’s water quality and flow! Environment Agency provides permit to Thames Water for the outflow, to ensure treated water is safe to pump into Cranleigh Waters and beyond.  It was permitted to treat the sewage from 15,000 people since 1964, this has been renewed.  TW has recently built further treatment capacity because of extra housing. Nothing else has changed.  The river sometimes dries up and other times floods.  The outflow has high levels of phosphates. Phosphates come from human urine, waste and from farm run off and washing powders. Too much harms life in rivers and streams. The river plants and creatures are not in a healthy condition.

What is being done? Thames Water will upgrade the facilities as the need arises, never before housing is built and occupied. Treatment of outflow for excess phosphates is now scientifically possible and will soon come to Cranleigh – 2024.

Surrey Wildlife Trust and Cranleigh Civic Society working together to create a Waterways task force to monitor the health of the waterways, and report any particular problems and get them resolved. We need a team of volunteers…… this project was paused last time it started but this time we are definitely going ahead in June and July.  



Flooding and How clean are our local rivers and streams? New Water Bill on the way

Have you had a chance to listen to Destination Cranleigh’s Cranleigh Community Radio number 23? Have a listen here 

Cranleigh Society current Chair Trevor talks about where the streams are and how we need to keep them clean.  If you see them getting blocked up please let Cranleigh Parish Council know.  It’s time to get back to working on what worries us such as potential flooding and the various problems, including sewage coming up where it shouldn’t.  We will be contacting MP Angela Richardson for her help in this matter.

How clean are our rivers?

The newspaper – The Times – this week said that we are suffering from Rivers of Shame due to raw sewage finding its way into rivers –  here is a link to the article here

Who is responsible for allowing what into the rivers and streams? is the privately owned water companies and the farmers for example, and what about the public?

and who makes sure they are clean enough?  Well, the Government would say it has the Environment Agency to make sure our rivers are clean and safe for wildlife.  But can we leave it to them?

Environment Agency Government site says  “We were established in 1996 to protect and improve the environment. We have around 10,600 employees. Our head office is in Bristol and we have another office in London. We have offices across England, divided into 14 areas listed below. See a map of our areas. Within England we’re responsible for:

  • regulating major industry and waste
  • treatment of contaminated land
  • water quality and resources
  • fisheries
  • inland river, estuary and harbour navigations
  • conservation and ecology

We are also responsible for managing the risk of flooding from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries and the sea. Lead local flood authorities (LLFAs) are responsible for managing the risk of flooding from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses and lead on community recovery.  More detail about who is responsible for managing flood risks.”

We at Cranleigh Society have, over the years, with the help of the Right Honorable Anne Milton, held Thames Water to account concerning the quality of water they emit into our tiny rivers in and around Cranleigh. The rivers are named Cranleigh Waters, Littlemead Brook, Wey & Arun Canal, Cobblers Brook, Thornhurst Brook, and others. There are several ponds too including on the Common, and Vachery pond.

Looking at a map of Cranleigh on Google it’s easy to see our rivers are a major part of Cranleigh and need to be cared for, for us, for wildlife and for the future.

The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill

According to The Angling Trust “Our rivers are in crisis. In 2019 water companies released raw sewage into our rivers more than 200,000 times, equating to more than 1.5 million hours. In September this year data from the Environment Agency revealed that not a single river in England achieved good chemical status and only 14% were classed as being of good ecological status. Sewage discharges by water companies into our rivers, lakes and waterways are suffocating our precious fish biodiversity and further degrading our environment. You can be a part of the urgent change needed to hold water companies to account for their actions and put an end to this pollution. The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill is going through Parliament right now and we need your help to write to your MP to support the Bill.” 

If you witness a pollution incident, it is important to report it. Making the regulator (for example the Environment Agency and Natural England) aware of an incident is an essential step to make sure the polluter is held to account for their actions.” 

Government web site – “Summary of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill 2019-21

A Bill to place a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters; and for connected purposes.”



The Wey & Arun Canal near us

The Wey & Arun Canal near us

A section of the Wey and Arun Canal is apparently Under Reconstruction  near us here in Cranleigh.

As you drive along Elmbridge Road between the One Stop and the A218 the narrow hump with traffic calming is a sort of bridge over it.

How would it be if that part of the road were made into a proper double width bridge travelling responsibly over the Canal? It could then be dredged and restored.

But who owns the land and will it ever happen? How could Surrey County Council ever afford such a project?  Would you support it?

You might like to join the Wey & Arun Trust and support the wonderful work they do – for wildlife corridors and fresh air lungs for our built up areas https://weyarun.org.uk/



Anne Milton opens Flood Gates

Anne Milton opens Flood Gates

On Monday the 24th of July, Anne Milton MP organised a meeting at the village hall that she described as a flood forum and it turned out to be much more than that. She brought together Waverley planners, Thames Water, the Environment Agency, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Public Health England, Surrey County Council, the National Flood Forum, Cranleigh Parish Council and Cranleigh Civic Society to discuss openly several of the major concerns Cranleigh’s residents have raised with her. 65 members of the public came along and several parish and borough councillors also attended.

The plan was to address these concerns and direct them specifically to the authority responsible, so that the answers could be heard by all. We were very happy to hear sewerage problems, flooding and asbestos cement water pipes all discussed openly. It was always understood that the problems would not be resolved then and there but that efforts could be made to address them in the coming weeks and months.

To aid this, small sub committees were formed to work on specific areas and they will report back at the next meeting planned for the autumn. It was just the beginning of what will be a long term effort but a positive step and one that Cranleigh Civic Society welcomes. Members of the Society volunteered to join sub committees and share the information they have collected specific to each area so we will be close to the decision making process.