COVID-19 - Frequently asked questions

We understand our customers will have questions about how the COVID-19 outbreak may affect our services and our region. You can find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) below. 

Questions about how we’re maintaining our services for customers

How will the COVID-19 virus affect my water and wastewater services?

You shouldn’t notice any difference. In line with government advice, we’ve adopted different ways of working but our mission remains the same. We’ve been drawing up plans to cope with this pandemic since January and believe we have a robust system in place. Employees who can are working from home. Our sites are being safeguarded and operations are being managed to reduce risk.

What is Southern Water doing to keep our taps flowing and toilets flushing?

In line with government advice on COVID-19, we’re doing everything we can to protect our employees and customers, while making sure that we continue to supply you with water and wastewater services.

Our ways of working have already changed, and there may be further changes to come, but our mission remains the same – to keep our employees and customers safe and our services running.

Will you still be able to make repairs if a pipe bursts?

Providing wholesome water and taking away wastewater are our fundamental duties. We will continue to ensure we fulfill these duties.

Will Southern Water continue to visit the accommodation of those considered vulnerable?

We have suspended all non-essential visits to care homes, medical facilities, schools etc. This is to ensure their COVID-19 preparation and management is not disrupted.

To maintain our vital services for customers, any essential visits regarding any supply interruptions, water quality concerns or flooding incidents will go ahead.

Will hospitals be treated differently during the pandemic?

Hospitals are always taken into account in our operations. Even in the event of burst pipes we have contingency plans to keep them supplied.

How are you protecting your frontline employees?

We have asked our employees to avoid unnecessary face-to-face meetings – for example, by carrying out meetings via conference call, where possible. However, work that cannot be completed remotely – such as inspections – will go ahead as normal. To prevent our frontline employees from unnecessary contact, non-essential visits to operational sites are now suspended. This includes site tours, training and induction events.  

Will my meter still be read?

Many meter readings are done by AMR technology – remote reading by a van driving past. This is unaffected.

At the end of March, we stopped carrying out meter readings that required our employees to interact with customers or enter their property. Where possible, we’re still reading external meters. However, we’re reviewing this on a day-by-day basis while following government, medical and scientific advice.

 

We would like to emphasise that the safety of our customers and employees is our priority and this will be at the forefront of any decision we take during the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

Why are Southern Water employees still working in my street after the government’s social distancing instructions?

As an essential public service, maintaining services to our customers is vital. Our employees are key workers and we’re continuing to carry out essential maintenance on our network to keep your water and waste flowing.

At this time, protecting our employees and local community is a priority. We’ve adopted different ways of working in line with government guidance.

If you see our employees working in the street, please don’t approach them. If you’ve got any questions, please call us on 0330 303 0368 instead. Thank you.

Questions about community events and leisure activities

After advice on social distancing, will Southern Water’s community events still go ahead?

To avoid causing undue concern, we have decided to suspend community events for the foreseeable future. This includes school visits, charity and community events and volunteer days. 

While this is all going on, can you recommend any walks or activities in the area?

During this uncertain time, it’s vital we look after ourselves. If you can, take a stroll along one of our reservoirs or local beaches - though we ask that you continue to follow government advice and practise social distancing:

  • Reservoirs – With all the rain we’ve had lately, our reservoirs are at healthy levels and do look beautiful at this time of year. While walking routes are still available, to help keep everyone safe during this unprecedented time, all our reservoir car parks are now closed. Before visiting Bewl Water, please double check the website for any further restrictions.
  • Beaches – We’d also suggest getting some fresh air by taking a stroll along the beach. Our region has plenty to choose from and, at this time of year, you can take your dog too. Just remember to bag and bin that poo to protect the beauty of the beach.

Can I still visit Southern Water's reservoirs for a walk?

Yes. However, to help keep everyone safe during this unprecedented time, all our reservoir car parks are now closed. While walking routes are still available, we ask that you continue to follow government advice and practise social distancing. We know this is a challenging time for everyone and thank you all for your understanding.

Questions about your bill

If we’re being asked to wash our hands more often, will you be giving us discounts on bills?

In keeping with government advice, it’s vital we all take part in frequent hand washing to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While you may be using slightly more water, it’s a very small difference to daily routines so this should not have an impact on your bill. 

We know some of our customers’ circumstances may have changed unexpectedly in recent weeks. If you're struggling to pay your bill, you can get in touch via our online form at southernwater.co.uk/contact-us and request a Payment Break. If you’d prefer to speak to someone, you can call us on 0330 303 0277.

How will you be supporting those in financial difficulty due to businesses being closed?

We understand that circumstances can change – sometimes unexpectedly. We're here to help if you're struggling to pay your bill.

Please talk to us if you are struggling to make payments – you can get in touch via our online form at southernwater.co.uk/contact-us and request a Payment Break. If you’d prefer to speak to someone, you can call us on 0330 303 0277. We may be able to provide advice or financial assistance by putting you on a different payment support schemes or tariff.

While I’m at home more often than usual, how can I try to avoid increasing my water usage?

We have lots of usual hints and tips to help you save where possible while at home. Here are three easy steps you could take:

  • Your turn to put the kettle on? – Only boil the amount of water you need. This can cut the energy cost of boiling your kettle by a third. In fact, if everyone did it, the UK could save more than £1 million a week.
  • Keeping hydrated – Place a jug of water in the fridge so you have chilled water ready to drink, rather than running your tap until the water runs cold.
  • Taking a shower – The average UK shower lasts eight minutes. For a typical family, that equates to £416 a year in energy costs. Keeping showers to four minutes halves that cost. By doing so, the average family could save enough water to make 300 cups of tea a day.

We also have plenty more tips on how to save water.

Questions about what to flush

Shops are running low on toilet roll. What can we use as an alternative that we can safely flush down the loo?

We appreciate finding toilet roll has been difficult lately, but please try and avoid putting any alternatives down the loo – including kitchen roll, newspaper and wet wipes.

Anything other than the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – can form blockages in our sewers, potentially leading to flooding in homes. We suggest putting a bin next to the toilet so you can easily dispose of unflushable items.

Questions about emergencies

I’m self-isolating, should I sign up to your priority services register in case of water emergencies?

If you’re self-isolating and your supply is interrupted, you may notice the water going off very quickly. So the best thing to do would be to call us and report the water outage on 0330 303 0368 and let us know your circumstances so we can provide you with the right support and bottled water.

If you have a health condition, or other challenges that mean you need access to water first, you can apply to be added to our priority services register here: southernwater.co.uk/account/extra-help-and-support.

I’ve got a health condition or other challenge. How can I make sure I get support in an emergency?

Through these difficult times, Southern Water is working hard to support vulnerable customers should supplies be disrupted. If you (or someone you know) have a health condition, or other challenges that mean you need access to water first, you can apply to be added to our priority services register here: southernwater.co.uk/account/extra-help-and-support.

I think my elderly relatives need to sign up for your priority services register. Can I apply on their behalf?

Yes, we have made changes to our priority services registration process based on the coronavirus situation. Trusted relatives and third parties can now apply on behalf of vulnerable friends and relatives.

If you think someone should be added, visit southernwater.co.uk/account/extra-help-and-support.

Questions about your health

Can coronavirus be transmitted via drinking water?

In the UK, drinking water supplies are routinely disinfected as part of the treatment process, and this process removes all harmful pathogens including viruses. The coronavirus COVID-19 is thought to spread between people who are in close contact with one another, and all evidence from the spread of the virus shows that the drinking water supply is not a route for transmission of the virus.  People should continue to use tap water as normal, including for drinking, hand washing, bathing, cooking, and cleaning teeth.

Is the treatment of wastewater safe – can effluent spread the virus?

Our wastewater operations are designed to return non-polluting effluent to the environment through long outfalls to the sea or into rivers. There is no evidence that risks are altered by the pandemic.

A manhole has been overflowing due to groundwater flooding near me – is it safe?

Customers should never handle wastewater spills. In an emergency call us on 0330 303 0368 – the line is open 24 hours. Please leave the clean up to us.

What is Southern Water doing to prevent the spread of the virus to your customers and employees when visiting customers’ premises?

To avoid undue concern for our customers, our employees have been instructed to follow the government’s recommended hygiene procedures. They’ll wash their hands or use hand sanitiser immediately before they enter a customer’s premises and again after leaving. They’ll also do so before entering or leaving our own sites. We have also asked them to avoid all direct person-to-person contact, including shaking hands. 

 
 
 
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