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Question time with our future leaders

Southern Water CEO, Lawrence Gosden, agrees to take the hot seat and be questioned by students from EYE (Eco, Young and Engaged) project, at their Question Time event. 

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting some inspiring GCSE and A-Level students from Oscar Romero School in Worthing, Shoreham College, Shoreham Academy, and Chichester College as I joined their ‘Question Time’ event. The students are part of EYE (Eco, Young and Engaged) project, a fantastic community partnership setup by MP Tim Loughton which aims to engage young people in the effects of climate change.  

I agreed to take to the hot seat and gave the students the opportunity to ask me any questions about Southern Water’s environmental impact, and the work we’re doing to improve and protect our natural habitats. Let’s just say, they didn’t hold back!  

We had some great discussions specifically around our company performance, bill increases and our support for customers struggling financially, how we’re tackling storm overflows, pollutions and our use of renewable energy.  

The students had clearly done their research, and I was particularly impressed by how passionate they were about the effects of climate change and their questions around how we can all be better guardians of the environment.  

As a water company operating in an already water-stressed region, climate change is already impacting our local environment, and subsequently our operations and long-term plans. More volatile extremes of weather we’re experiencing, teamed with population growth, will continue to increase the demand for water, yet the amount of water available will decrease with droughts becoming more frequent. Increasing temperatures will likely impact water quality changing nutrient levels in rivers and streams. More severe storms will lead to more flooding, pollutions and pollutants washing into watercourses.  

The students were interested to know how we’re addressing these challenges now, and how we can all play our part to preserve crucial water supplies and our environment for future generations. I highlighted some of our programmes underway like: 

  • Addressing water scarcity by investing in new sources of water through the introduction of water recycling. Raising awareness of water consumption through our Target 100 programme which provides helpful tips and advice on ways we can all reduce our water use to a target of 100 litres per person a day. Roll out of smart meters between 2025-2030. 
  • Harnessing the power of nature-based solutions, like sustainable drainage systems, wetlands and reed beds in our communities, alongside new technology to manage the flow of rainwater and stop it overwhelming the wastewater system leading to storm overflows. 
  • Improving water quality by upgrading the capacity of our wastewater treatment works to reduce pollutions and bursts and improve our treatment facilities to remove more potentially harmful nutrients from wastewater going back into the environment.  

Having the opportunity to engage with the students like this and hear their thoughts on Southern Water, our operations, and the all-encompassing context of climate change, was really thought-provoking. I won’t deny that some of the questions they posed were tough; but as our future leaders, I was encouraged by that – we need to harness their thoughts, ideas and passions.  

I hope they got as much out of the session as I did. Thank you to Tim Loughton MP for organising the event, and I look forward to doing more of these in the future.