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Angling and conservation groups call for hosepipe bans to prevent environmental damage

01.08.18

Drought - River Colne - Bricket Wood Hertforshire - Spring 2017 x550px

The Angling Trust and river conservation groups are calling for UK water companies to stop gambling with the environment and introduce hosepipe bans right now in light of the prolonged hot, dry weather. The call follows the announcement from Affinity Water – a company with no surface storage that relies exclusively on abstraction from chalk streams – during which they claimed that no water restrictions are expected this year. Other companies are also reluctant to take meaningful action.

The recent extremely hot weather and a distinct lack of rainfall for many weeks have led to rapidly falling river levels and increased water demand over much of the country. In the most severely hit areas, this has resulted in rivers running dry and the Environment Agency having to carry out fish rescues.

While groundwater levels were holding up in the southeast as a result of the heavy precipitation in spring, flows are now declining rapidly in the Chiltern chalkstreams, which has knock-on effects for major rivers such as the River Colne and River Thames. Despite this, the only water company in England that is currently preparing to introduce restrictions to reduce public water demand is United Utilities in the northwest, which is planning to implement a hosepipe ban from 5th August.

Water companies have ‘drought triggers’ – identified water levels of either reservoirs or groundwater supplies at which the company must begin introducing water restrictions and applying for ‘drought orders’, which allow them to abstract above safe levels for the environment. The Angling Trust, River Anglers Conservation Group (RACG) and other conservation organisations believe that current drought triggers are too conservative and water restrictions should be introduced much earlier to reduce public demand and prevent environmental damage later in the year.

Martin Salter, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said: “By ducking out of their responsibility to save water through hosepipe bans and other restrictions the water companies are gambling with the health of our precious rivers and the fish and other wildlife that they support. This week’s Drought Summit called by the farmers union will only increase pressure for more damaging water abstractions as they struggle with crop failures. In this climate it is nothing short of madness that we are continuing to waste water on lawns and golf courses.”

Paul Floyd from the recently-formed River Anglers Conservation Group said: "The RACG is extremely concerned about impacts of abstraction on our rivers this summer and lack of water restrictions imposed by water companies. With many fish kills reported around the UK from increased water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen the problem is being significantly compounded by low flows on many rivers, in fact the EA are reporting up to 50% increases in calls to incident rooms. We must therefore act now to reduce consumption by the immediate introduction of water restrictions to protect the environment."

Paul Jennings, Chair of the River Chess Association, added: “The River Chess has been struggling for flow for the past 4 years. Low rainfall and abstraction for domestic consumption being the main culprits. During this dry weather water demand has gone up 30% further stressing supplies of groundwater that feed our rivers yet there is no indication from the water supplier Affinity Water that they are going to apply for water use restrictions. It looks like the environment will be allowed to suffer.”

Barry Bendall, Director of Water and Land at The Rivers Trust, concluded: “We are very concerned about the current low level of water in many rivers throughout much of the country and the potential for further deterioration if the dry weather continues. We would like to see a longer-term, more sustainable, multi-sector approach to managing our water resources with greater emphasis on building resilience within river catchments. If we could do this and reduce water consumption before river levels and water quality reach a critical state, we could limit the impact on fish, wildlife and the people enjoying the rivers during these dry weather periods.”


Notes
  • Details of the NFU Drought Summit can be viewed here.
  • The latest Environment Agency report monthly water situation report for England from the end of June can be downloaded here. The situation has become progressively worse since then.
  • A full statement from the River Anglers Conservation Group regarding current UK water supply can be viewed here.

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