CAMBRIDGE Water is unfazed by the prospect of supplying clean drinking water to an extra 50,000 households - 40 per cent more than at present in the driest area of the country - under growth plans for the Cambridge sub-region by 2026. It is all down to a combination of planning ahead, metering, leakage control and recycling, managing director Stephen Kay told The Hunts Post. "We have been around for 156 years, and we have always tried to invest at the right time to ensure we can cope with whatever is thrown at us in the future," he said. "That's not to say everything is going to be perfect, but for our 25-year planning horizon we have sufficient water without needing any drastic measures. And we should be all right beyond that. I wouldn't say we were complacent, but we are pretty confident because we have spare water." The 50,000 new homes planned for Cambridge Water's area represent an increase of around 30 per cent in the number of consumers, because the average household size is expected to diminish. That additional demand will be met by a balance between extra water - of which the company says there is plenty for the foreseeable future - and reducing overall usage. Partly that is achieved by metering - it is known that people with metered supplies use the resource more sparingly. Sixty per cent of homes (and all new homes) have meters. So successful has that been that the company has been supplying a similar volume of water year on year for the past 15 years, in spite of the steadily increasing population. At the same time, leakage from mains supplies has been cut by 22 per cent - and Cambridge has been one of the best water companies for controlling leakage. "In the South-East, Anglian Water, Cambridge and Essex & Suffolk have been pretty much paragons of virtue in leakage, so improving that makes it more difficult and more expensive," Mr Kay said. "You get into the realms of having to renew more of the mains than you would otherwise have to." So far, the plan seems to have been successful. In 1991, the company had the only hosepipe ban in that 156-year history - and it is determined never to have another. Key factors are boreholes sunk in Thetford Forest to feed a new reservoir at Madingley that supplies drinking water to its Huntingdonshire customers in St Ives, Ramsey and the surrounding villages.