DRILLING and excavation work to investigate an area of countryside earmarked for a new £100m reservoir and public leisure space is due to begin next week.
Workers will be seen arriving on Portsmouth Water’s land between Staunton Country Park and Havant Thicket from Monday, October 28 onward.
They will drill boreholes and excavations to study clay, take samples of soil, measure groundwater levels and install equipment to monitor them.
Bosses say 34 holes will be made – with 10 boreholes of up to 60m deep, 17 between 10m and 35m and seven between four and six metres.
Information gleamed from the works, to take place until December, will help inform plans for the first new south east reservoir since the 1970s.
Bob Taylor, Portsmouth Water’s CEO, said: ‘It’s an exciting time as we take these vital first steps on the ground to gather information to inform the design of the reservoir.
‘While we don’t expect any disruption for residents, we will be doing all we can to minimise the impact of the work.
‘We’ll be preparing the planning application for the reservoir over the next 12 months and as we do this we’ll be talking to residents, businesses, groups and community representatives in the local area to share ideas and gather their views.
‘The south east as a whole is seriously water-stressed and while we are fortunate to have reliable supplies, building the reservoir means we can capture spare spring water to supply our customers and release water in the west of Hampshire to share with our neighbours in Southern Water’s region.
‘We’re all facing the challenges of climate change and population growth, so it’s important we work together to make the best use of the water available and protect our rivers and wildlife across Hampshire.’
Construction engineering firm Socotec will carry out the work, between 8am and 6pm from Monday to Friday and from 8am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Socotec was appointed by project manager Atkins, which Portsmouth Water named as the designer of the reservoir earlier this month.
The reservoir is scheduled to be ready by 2029 and would support Portsmouth Water's plan to send 60m litres of water a day to Southern Water.
It comes as the company reduces its abstraction from water-stressed chalk streams, Rivers Test and Itchen in Hampshire.
Portsmouth Water said footpaths and the public bridleway at the reservoir site will remain open while work takes place.
‘This is not fracking’
BOSSES at Portsmouth Water will send out 27,000 letters to reassure residents about works to learn more about the reservoir's potential home.
These will go out to people living near the site in November, including those in Leigh Park, Horndean and Rowlands Castle.
In a Q&A document it is expected to highlight the difference between the works and fracking – the process of injecting liquid, often sand and chemicals, into boreholes at high pressure to create fractures in sedimentary rock to enable the extraction of oil or gas.
It will say in the text: ‘This is a very different sort of activity. The depth of the drilling is very shallow – up to a maximum of 60 metres - which is far short of the depths at which activities such as fracking take place.’
It is understood contractors will be using small, towable or tracked drilling rigs and JCB-type excavators for the work, alongside water – not chemicals.
Fracking wells can be as deep as two to three kilometres.