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Plans to restore chalk stream flows need your help to become reality

Thursday 1 August 2013

Plans to restore chalk stream flows need your help to become reality

R. Gade in HemelA local water company plans to reduce the amount of water it takes over the next 25 years to improve flows in the Chilterns Chalk Streams and is seeking support from customers to make it happen through its www.talkwater.co.uk consultation.

Households in the Chilterns and surrounding area use, on average, 180 litres per person per day - more than anywhere else in the UK.  The majority of the water to satisfy this high demand is pumped from the chalk aquifer, a store of groundwater held in the chalk rock that makes up the Chiltern Hills.

This aquifer also provides the source of water for the area’s iconic chalk streams, but in the last 50 years has become diminished by over-abstraction – pumping of water – to feed the area’s growing population.  As a result chalk streams like the River Ver, Gade, Bulbourne, Chess and Misbourne have begun to dry up regularly, leading to the loss of globally rare chalk stream habitat.

In recognition of this deep-seated problem, Affinity Water - which provides water to 3.2million customers in its Central region, is planning for the future and proposes to reduce abstraction by 73 million litres a day to restore chalk streams flows, of which 28 million litres will directly benefit Chilterns rivers. 

In order to achieve this, Affinity proposes to use a combination of compulsory water metering, greater leakage detection and transfers of water from outside the area.   This strategy will lead to a small increase in annual customer water bills of £10. 

Allen Beechey, the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project Officer said, “We have campaigned for many years for reductions in abstraction and for greater water efficiency to help restore the area’s long-suffering chalk streams to health. Affinity’s plan presents a real opportunity for it to become a reality.”  In order to put their plans into practice, Affinity must secure the approval of OFWAT, the independent regulatory body for the water industry.  To achieve this Affinity needs the support of its customers.

OFWAT rejected Veolia (now Affinity) Water’s previous Water Resource Management Plan which set out to reduce water demand in the area, in favour of keeping customer water bills down, regardless of the impact on the environment. However, the Government have now given OFWAT a new strategic requirement to consider the environment in the decisions it makes so there is hope for a different outcome this time around.

Affinity Water’s consultation on its Water Resource Management Plan has now closed but, customers can still tell them how important it is to protect our precious chalk streams by taking part in Affinity’s short customer survey www.talkwater.co.uk which is open until the end of August.

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