Water infrastructure will not be able to support 500,000 new homes in the South East according to regional council leader.

The government’s plan for 500,000 new homes in the South East will lead to severe water shortages, a regional leader has warned.

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the South East County Leaders told BBC online that the government must invest in more water supply and sewage treatment plants to avert a crisis in one of the driest areas in the UK.

Mitchell said: “Water is the most basic of human needs, yet the government is forcing even more houses on the South East without being sure where it is going to come from.”

To meet current demand water companies have submitted new plans to the Environment Agency including the construction of new reservoirs and the extension of the biggest, Bewl Bridge in East Sussex.

East Sussex County Council has said that the proposals did not go far enough. It said that it was unacceptable for the government to build new homes when the infrastructure was inadequate.

The South East Regional Assembly will identify where the 500,000 new homes will be built later this month. Deputy prime minister John Prescott has already marked out four areas for growth: Milton Keynes, Ashford in Kent, the Cambridge-Stanstead corridor and the Thames Gateway.

The office of the deputy prime minister said that it expected water companies to be able to cope with the increase in demand. It also said that it expected new homes in the South East to achieve water savings of at least 25% or more.

The government will be able to force builders to provide more water saving features in new homes from the Autumn when a new Actl will enable the ODPM to incorporate water efficiency targets within Building Regulations.

The Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill received its third reading before the summer recess and should become law when Parliament reconvenes in September.