THOUSANDS of litres of sewage could be pumped into the River Itchen and reused in the public water supply.

Newater PLC has asked for permission to discharge 27,000 cubic metres of treated sewage effluent into the River Itchen, at Tichborne, from the Portswood Wastewater Treatment works in Southampton.

If Environment Agency chiefs agree, the company says it will increase river flows and provide additional water downstream to be abstracted and used for public supply.

Newater has also made a separate application for an abstraction licence.

Jim Glasspool, from Itchen Abbas, the Test and Itchen Association secretary, has objected to the scheme.

He said sewage effluent carried endocrine disruptors, which can cause the feminisation of male fish.

Mr Glasspool said the discharged water could also alter river temperatures and reduce oxygen levels in the summer, and he warned that fluctuations in river levels could cause "overtopping".

He said the application could provoke "enormous environmental problems".

John Baker, of The Tichborne Fishing Syndicate, has also objected to the proposals, as has the Tichborne Estate.

Both Roger Bousfield, chairman of Tichborne Parish Council, and Jane Kettle, clerk to Cheriton Parish Council, said there had been "a lot of concerns" raised.

Both parishes have pledged to examine the application in detail and, like members of the public, have until March 8 to make representations.

Cllr Bousfield said: "It goes against everything the Itchen stands for. Everybody is up in arms about it."

Cllr Harry Verney, ward councillor for Cheriton and Bishop's Sutton, believed the water could "double the flow" of the river, and affect the riverbank.

"One should make sure the protests are loud and long," he said.

Southampton-based Newater PLC creates water management systems that recycle effluent water, in order to help to address the water supply deficits in the South.

A spokesman said the firm would listen to all concerns, and "consult widely and extensively".