PLANS are being made to stop using Ennerdale Water as a source of drinking water in a bid to preserve the natural habitat.

United Utilities has announced it is making long-term plans about where it gets its drinking water from for people in West Cumbria in the future. And it is asking members of the public to get involved in the consultation process.

The water company says Ennerdale is the main source of water for more than 80,000 people in and around Whitehaven. It is also home to England’s only viable population of internationally important freshwater mussels and many other rare plant and animal species.

Dr Richard Blackwell, United Utilities’ supply demand manager, says as a result: “It’s likely we will need to stop taking water from there in the next decade or so.”

The most likely alternative would be to link West Cumbria to the company’s Thirlmere reservoir, near Keswick, which has an abundant supply of water. Other options could be to find other local sources of water in West Cumbria.

The options are outlined in the company’s new Water Resources Management Plan, which sets out how demand for drinking water across the North West will be balanced with the needs of the environment over the next 25 years.

Dr Blackwell said: “The outlook for the North West’s water supplies is generally positive. Thanks partly to our efforts to reduce leaks and increase water efficiency, the amount of water we need to take from reservoirs and rivers is actually falling, and in most places we expect to have more than enough water to meet the needs of our growing population until 2040.

“The one area where this isn’t the case is West Cumbria. Although demand for water is going down, we still need to reduce massively the amount of water we take from the environment.”

Work is already under way to reduce reliance on Ennerdale as a source of water, including additional measures to reduce leakage, water efficiency campaigns are encouraging people to be more water wise and a new 10km pipeline will soon be built between Egremont and Ennerdale to link Whitehaven to new sources of groundwater.

Dr Blackwell said: “All this work has been planned for some time and, in just two years’ time, we will reduce the amount of water we need to take from Ennerdale by more than eight million litres a day.

“This will be good news for the sensitive environment there, but we know more needs to be done to protect it even further into the future, probably by stopping using it as a source of water altogether.”

United Utilities is keen to share its ideas with its customers so that people can have their say before the plan is published early next year.

To download a user-friendly leaflet or view the draft water resources management plan in full, go to:

All comments must be received by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by July 9, either by email at using the subject “United Utilities Water Resources Management Plan 2013”, or in writing to Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Water Resources Management Plan Consultation, 3rd Floor Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR.