Liquid Asset

02nd October 2019

The bottled water you’ll find throughout the Goodwood Estate comes from one source: South Downs Water. But this thriving business might never have come into being but for a chance remark.

Words by Manfreda Cavazza

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South Downs Water owes its very existence to a passing comment made by an elderly factory worker some 29 years ago. This third-generation family business, previously an injection moulding plastics company, was struggling to compete with the influx of cheap plastics from overseas. Will Windsor, chief executive of South Downs Water and grandson of the founder, recalls what happened next: “An old employee told my father that before he made any rash decisions, he should look at the well at the back of the factory. My father literally prized open the capped element of the well amid all the hustle and bustle of the machines and tasted the water. It was delicious. And so the water business was born.” 

Unbeknownst to the family, they were sitting on a hugely lucrative natural resource: an artesian well, 420ft underground, enriched with minerals from deep within the majestic South Downs. The water it produces is pure, filtered through layers of chalk. Being an artesian well, it doesn’t require a pump to bring it to the surface; the pressure within the body of permeable rock beneath it is such that it forces the water to the surface without any assistance. 

My father set about building up the water business, through blood, sweat and tears, mainly focusing on selling water-coolers to offices. But when I took over in 2014, I realised we could do so much more with the brand

It was as if the family had been blessed with their very own wishing well. “My father set about building up the water business, through blood, sweat and tears, mainly focusing on selling water-coolers to offices. But when I took over in 2014, I realised we could do so much more with the brand,” explains Windsor.

Over three million bottles of still and sparkling South Downs Water are now sold every year to luxury hotels, restaurants and cafés in Sussex and Hampshire. It became Goodwood’s estate-wide provider of mineral water in 2018. Being a local supplier, this complemented the estate’s sustainability efforts.

Indeed, sustainability is high on Windsor’s agenda, as it should be. Plans are afoot to reduce the amount of plastic in each bottle by 4g, amounting to a reduction of 15 tonnes over the course of a year. Other eco-initiatives being explored include introducing recycled plastic bottles, reducing the label size and even blowing bottles on site, in a bid to reduce carbon emissions. The company only delivers within a 40-mile radius (anything further afield is sold via resellers) and its glass and plastic bottle suppliers are all based in the UK. It is working towards becoming carbon neutral and plans to generate all its energy through solar panels on site. Windsor has also pledged to send no waste to landfill.

As someone who sells bottled water, Windsor is well aware of the environmental crisis caused by single-use plastic. But just like his father before him, he is looking for solutions.

This article was taken from the Autumn 2019 edition of the Goodwood Magazine.

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The estate has been here for over three hundred years and we are planning for the next three hundred.

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