SEVERE water rationing targets could lead to people in north Hampshire using less water than people in India, a public inquiry heard.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough councillor Onnalee Cubitt, who represents Basing ward, said the Government wanted water consumption slashed to levels seen in developing countries with hot climates.

The councillor was joining campaigning groups giving evidence at a public inquiry into the South East Water’s Water Resources Management plan.

The review was called last year by the then Environment Secretary Hilary Benn amid concerns over water shortages in the next 25 years.

The month long review has been taking place in Gatwick – but one session was held at Mapledurwell and Up Nately Village Hall last week at the request of Cllr Cubitt.

Giving evidence, Cllr Cubitt said: “The South East of England has already been deemed an area of severe water stress.

“We currently have less water available per head than many sub-Saharan countries in Africa.”

The councillor said this was significant because the borough had been earmarked to take at least 945 homes each year up to 2026.

Cllr Cubitt’s said her other chief concern was surging water usage reducing the flow and water quality of the River Loddon.

Borough councillor Stephen Reid and Odiham parish councillor Mark Faulkner, plus representatives from the Whitewater Valley Preservation Society, Save Our Loddon Valley and Environ-ment (SOLVE) and the Surrey and Hants Canal Society Authority also gave evidence.

Cllr Reid, chairman of the borough council’s planning and infrastructure committee, said: “My belief is that the water company should not be forced to plan for savings that are aspirational but instead be allowed to predict what is sensibly achievable.”

He argued tight water rationing would fail because the number of single-person households, which consume more per head than families, was growing.

And water metering was not a solution because it would disproportionately hit families, he added.

Nigel Bell, of the Whitewater Valley Preservation Society, said sustained abstraction from chalk in West Ham and Cliddesden was reducing the River Loddon’s flow and increases in treated effluent levels in the Loddon – already six times higher than an average chalk river – threatened its delicate ecology.

He said: “It is clear to us that that South East Water has ridden roughshod over environmental issues and taken no notice of representation made by us during the public consultation [for the Water Resources Management plan].”

SOLVE chairman Kate Tuck echoed his concerns, telling the inquiry that studies showed even marginal population changes in the area risked damaging the river’s rich ecology.