Southern Water agrees drought shortage deal
A water company has struck a deal to avoid drinking water shortages in the event of a drought in Hampshire.
Southern Water had warned it might have had to breach limits for pumping water from two environmentally-sensitive chalk streams.
The Environment Agency has agreed its proposed limits for the Rivers Itchen and Test would mean shortages.
It said it would consider any future applications for emergency abstraction of river and groundwater.
The deal was announced on the first day of a public inquiry into proposed new licences for pumping at Otterbourne, Testwood, Twyford and Candover Stream.
The Environment Agency said the change at Testwood was needed to protect wildlife and to "restore sustainable abstraction".
It had published a plan to reduce abstraction from 136 to 80 million litres a day, while claiming no more than 66 million litres had been taken from the river in "recent years".
Pumping from the River Itchen and groundwater sites at Otterbourne and Twyford would be cut from 153 to 115 million litres a day, also above current abstraction levels, under the proposals.
There would also be restrictions in summer months and stricter conditions to stop abstraction when water levels run too low.
The changes had been supported by the World Wildlife Fund which said the rivers contained "important salmon populations" and had suffered from over-abstraction.
In a statement, Southern Water said: "We believe we are reaching a solution which will allow us to continue delivering drinking water to our customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, while protecting the precious environment."
The environment secretary will make a final decision on the licences after the inquiry resumes on 27 March.