Affinity Water: Residents’ update from meeting about Saffron Walden water softening

R4U’s Cllr Paul Gadd, who is also the leader of Saffron Walden Town Council, provided the following update for residents after the recent public meeting with Affinity Water:

Paul Gadd (R4U) Paul Gadd (R4U)

R4U councillor Dave McLellan and I took part in the evening Affinity Water public meeting call. There were about 40 participants, roughly 5 from Affinity, and about 35 local residents.


Affinity Water gave a detailed background to the problem, which affects the Saffron Walden waterworks on Debden Road. Water is bumped from an underground aquifer beneath the waterworks and then distributed across an area stretching from just south and west of Saffron Walden north and east over to south of Hadstock and to Ashdon. Because the water comes from a chalk aquifer it is naturally very hard. It is softened by being pumped through a very fine mesh screen, which essentially removes any particles in it, including those which cause limescale, before being supplied into the system.


The water has been softened since the 1960s, following a legal 1964 agreement with the predecessors of the Town and District Councils, and residents have paid a surcharge for the softening, most recently of about £10 a year. Affinity said about 4 years ago the surcharge stopped following a leak when they couldn’t supply softened water, and they say the surcharge wasn’t then restored. Softening was resumed, but then recently discontinued, which has led to the current issues.


It would seem Affinity Water has clearly been surprised by the depth of local feeling, and the issues that the lack of softening has caused. It was very helpful that residents provided examples of problems with boilers, showers and kettles, and other items needing to be replaced, and clearly all residents in the supply area who don’t soften their own water will potentially be facing similar issues.


Affinity has undertaken to conduct an immediate public consultation. It would seems that the questions are likely to be in essence whether local residents are prepared to pay a surcharge again to have softened water again. Affinity will confirm exact timings in the next week.


A significant issue that Affinity highlighted was that currently no manufacturer of the treatment screens now has accreditation to make the screens for drinkable water, and so they need to find a way of sourcing a new screen which is acceptable to the Water Regulator. Clearly, this issue should have been addressed well in advance of the previous screen needing to be replaced, but this is now a problem they have and which is likely to delay restoring the softening process, if that is in fact what they agree to do.


I can assure residents that Saffron Walden Town Council are in direct contact with Affinity Water, and have been since the issue was first raised, Cllr McLellan and I will continue to represent residents until the issue is resolved, and your R4U district councillors are full briefed and ready to act when required.

Cllr Paul Gadd

The affected area reaches from Ashdon to just south west of Saffron Walden (Source: Affinity Water).