SOUTH West Water (SWW) should be made to urgently draw up and implement plans for new reservoirs to avoid Westcountry taps running dry, West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said this week.

Mr Liddell-Grainger wants the company to reveal its plans for increasing water storage to secure long-term supplies to the region.

He said only last year’s exceptional rainfall had saved the region from a water catastrophe after the drought of 2022.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “The most disturbing thing about the drought in 2022 was not so much the spectacle of the reservoirs running dry, but the arrogant attitude of water company officials trying to claim they were in control of the situation and that there was nothing to worry about.

“Pleading with consumers not to use too much water so there would be enough for tourists does not strike me as a situation which is in any way under control.

“Even after I raised the issue of the company’s performance in Parliament there was no appreciable change in its attitude - particularly intriguing since it was already under investigation by Ofwat.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said events in 2022 had revealed ‘appalling weaknesses’ in the Westcountry’s supply situation.

He said the weaknesses stemmed both from a leaking pipe network and the failure to build any new reservoirs for more than 40 years.

“The long-term trend is still indicating hotter, drier summers which are going to test current water provision beyond breaking point,” he said.

“The company now needs to reveal its plans for dealing with that state of affairs to the consumers from whose pockets it siphons so much money each year.”

South West Water has 32 reservoirs across the region, but only five of them, including Wimbleball Lake, on Exmoor, are large enough to be classed as ‘strategic reservoirs’.

In 2022, Wimbleball began to run dry as a prolonged drought was experienced across Somerset and Devon, and reached a new record low of below 80 per cent empty.

By October, 2022, Wimbleball was only 17.2 per cent of its capacity but became full again in 2023.

SWW in response said it did have plans for new reservoirs in the region as detailed in the water quality and resilience section of its business plan for 2025-2030, which was currently being reviewed by industry regulator Ofwat with a likely determination later this year.

The company said its water resilience plans were the most ambitious in decades.

It said there were plans for the construction of new strategic reservoirs in the region, beginning with ‘Cheddar 2’ in the Bristol area.

Naturalised quarries in Cornwall would also be repurposed to enhance regional resilience.

The company said lessons would be drawn from the drought of 2022 and resilience bolstered against future dry periods.

‘Cheddar 2’ would be one of four new water supply schemes to be developed, providing an equivalent of 70 million litres per day.

However, the firm said people should understand that it was a ‘tricky process’ to plan for and build new reservoirs.