Affinity Consultation: 26 April deadline

Our response to Affinity Water’s draft Water Resources Management Plan will be submitted along the following lines. We urge our members and those who care about chalk streams in the Chilterns, and the River Ver in particular, to respond too.

To help you respond quickly and easily we’d recommend emailing a response such as this:

Affinity Water draft water resources management plan consultation

I am pleased to see that a considerable number of improvements have been made to Affinity Water’s latest draft Water Resources Management Plan (dWRMP) since the consultation process began over 18 months ago. A fuller exploration of options beyond Affinity’s area of operations to reduce the 65% reliance on aquifers, the increased likelihood of the South East Strategic Reservoir (SESR) being built and investment in Supply 2040 to deliver an improved network for water transfers are all most welcome.

However, in respect of the River Ver and its neighbouring chalk streams in the Chilterns, I still have major concerns that there’s a lack of appetite to recognise how critical the current environmental situation is and little desire to respond with enthusiasm to protect it.

The Ver is already under extreme stress. Winterbourne sections are longer than ever, and stretches that used to be occasionally dry are now only occasionally wet. The river is currently dry for over 11km of its 28km length. No flow in the upper reaches also means the flow in the lower reaches of the river is poor, leading to a build-up of silt and the smothering of life-giving gravels. Water temperatures vary more widely too. Our chalk stream’s biodiversity is falling and the valley is a much less effective wildlife corridor. (Lost or declining in range include water crowfoot, freshwater shrimps, olives, cased caddis, freshwater mussels, brown trout, chub, water voles and mute swans for example.)

I agree with the Ver Valley Society that the dWRMP should deliver more for the environment, specifically:

1. Link new resources to reduced take from the chalk aquifer
Despite chalk streams being globally rare and a unique ecosystem singled out for protection, there’s no definitive commitment in the dWRMP to link new sources of water with opportunities to reduce the take from the chalk aquifer – leaving more for the environment. I would like to see the dWRMP contain assurances that these endangered streams will be beneficiaries.

2. Accelerate the introduction of new resources
I support the building of the South East Strategic Reservoir and I would like to see more emphasis on introducing this and other strategic options to bring water to the Central Region as a matter of urgency. Presently the Ver chalk stream has at least another 20 years to endure before any of the proposed schemes could deliver a benefit.

3. Take early action to promote consumer water saving
I would ask that the trigger levels for heavyweight water saving campaigns and Tactical Usage Bans (TUBs – formerly hosepipe bans) are reset, so that they are introduced at an earlier point as groundwater levels fall.

Presently the groundwater at the head of the Ver Valley is at the lowest official level, ‘exceptionally low’ and has been below the Long Term Average for 54 consecutive months – 4.5 years – and yet water saving messages are minimal and a TUBs isn’t close to being implemented. There appears to be a total disconnect between the poor state of the chalk stream environment in the field and the remedial action being taken. The parlous state of the Ver today is a troubling indicator of what will continue to happen for the next 5 year period unless significant changes are made.

Email responses should be clearly marked:
Affinity Water draft water resources management plan consultation

send to: water.resources@defra.gsi.gov.uk
Please copy your email to
WRMP.Consultation@affinitywater.co.uk
Water-Company-Plan@environment-agency.gov.uk
wrmp@ofwat.gsi.gov.uk
and if you wish please cc: johnp@riverver.co.uk


An almost dry River Ver south of Redbourn, over 11kms from the ‘source’. March 2019

Alternatively you can respond to Affinity Water’s survey
https://stakeholder.affinitywater.co.uk/have-your-say-survey.aspx