History of the Society



The River Ver and The Ver Valley Society.

  • 1946 – First official recognition by the local Council that a riverside walk through St Albans would be possible and of great amenity value to local residents. 
  • 1947 – Kensworth Pumping Station (PS) (6Ml/day): tap water replaces wells, standpipes and pumps in Kensworth, Caddington, Markyate and Flamstead.  
  • 1951 - Hertfordshire County Council- Survey Report and Analysis of County Development Plan: 1 Water Supply. “For many years now the subsoil water level in London has been falling and it is common knowledge that the same trend is apparent in Hertfordshire, where the sources of streams and rivers have moved considerably down their valleys during the lives of the present residents. All this points to one thing – that more water is being extracted by pumping from the subsoil of the London Basin than is percolating into it from rainfall upon the limited chalk areas on the rim.”  Public Enquiry into request by Luton Water Company to place a new ground water pumping station in the Ver valley at Friars Wash, between Redbourn and Flamstead. They argue that this is the simplest way to supply the water demands of the increasing population and industry in Luton and Dunstable. Many locals, including Ivy Hawkins, the last miller at Redbournbury Mill, campaign to prevent Luton Water Company from doing this. The Enquiry concluded that this would be “detrimental to the Ver valley”. 
  • 1953 – Overruled. 
  • 1955/6 – Friars Wash Pumping Station is opened (15Ml/day) officially by government minister, Enoch Powell. The Water Company maintains that the pumping station supplies water “not from the Ver but 300 feet down”. 
  • 1958 – Local campaign to prevent the Luton Water Company from establishing a further borehole at Bow Bridge. Many Councilors and local worthies spoke up for the campaign at a Public Meeting held in the Old Town Hall. Lord Verulam voiced the general opinion when he called it “A startling, scheming, stinking, stupid stratagem”.
  • 1961 – The Luton Water Act permits...
  • 1964 – Bow Bridge PS (6Ml/day) for additional water supplies for the Luton area. 
  • 1968 – “The River Ver at St Albans” a booklet by St Albans Civic Society once again proposes a riverside walk through St Albans. 
  • 1976 - St Albans District Council sponsored the formation of the Ver Valley Society, initially to promote a riverside path through St Albans – the Ver/Colne Walk, now the Ver Valley Walk. However it soon became apparent, in that very dry year, that the Ver was being lost increasingly and that a river walk seemed superfluous. Consequently, the VVS began a protracted campaign against over abstraction of water for public water supply from the underlying aquifer; and it continues to this day. 
  • 1977 – VVS publicises the demise of the river and establishes a team of voluntary bailiffs to monitor and record the river’s flow and status on a monthly basis. 
  • 1976-86 – VVS continues to lobby the Thames Water Authority, local water companies, MP’s and councilors to reduce abstraction. It took 10 years for the regulatory authorities and water companies to officially recognise the link between low flows in the Ver and abstraction. 
  • 1983 -Quarterly Ver Valley Society Newsletter started and sent to members by post.
  • 1989 – Report commissioned by Thames Water Authority/National Rivers Authority (NRA) to address the low flow problems and search for a possible solution. Discussions held between NRA, Three Valleys Water, VVS and consultants Halcrow. The Halcrow Report confirmed over- abstraction as a major factor in low flows and put forward various solutions. 
  • 1990/91 – VVS pressed for the closure of Friars Wash Pumping Station. This solution is agreed and submitted to Central Government for consideration. The plans are accepted. 
  • 1992/93 – Plans implemented. Friars Wash was put on to an “emergency only” status, and new water mains and pumps installed in the Luton area to bring water down from Grafham water reservoir.
  • 1993- May 26th marked the formal “switch off” of the pumps at Friars Wash. 
  • 1993-97 Although initially the Ver aquifer shows signs of recovery, and flora and fauna begin to reappear in the upper reaches once again, by the summer of 1997 the Ver is once again dry for two thirds of its length – the combined effect of drought and continued over abstraction. 
  • 1997 – Present over 30 Ml/d remains the combined license limit from the Ver aquifer. The VVS believes this represents over 50% of the annual average recharge, and that this is unsustainable in periods of low rainfall. It seems that the Ver, under the current abstraction regime, is destined to disappear every 7 or 8 years. One needs only to look at the current aquifer level timeline charts (see VVS Newsletter) to se that the Ver is still at risk; we remain constantly aware that our river, shaping and colouring the landscape of South West Hertfordshire for millions of years is still threatened from drought and over abstraction. 
  • 2016 - As part of Afinity Water's future planning Bow Bridge Pumping Station was "mothballed" at 08.05 on 31st March to alleviate te low flows in the Ver.


  • Ground Water Abstraction from the Ver Valley

    Stonecross   1865  -  8 Ml/d

    Holywell        1885  -  7 Ml/d

    Redbourn      1938  -  1 Ml/d

    Kensworth     1945 -   6 Ml/d

    Mud Lane      1948 -   2 Ml/d

    Friars Wash   1956  - 15 Ml/d - on Standby Onl since 1993

    Bow Bridge   1967  -   6 Ml/d - Closed since April 2016 


Apart from the air we breathe water is probably the most important thing in life. None of us could live very long without it. We can live longer without food than we can without water. Each of us uses 179 litres per day for washing, drinking and cleaning – and this figure continues to rise inexorably.

  • Did You Know? 

Fresh water is one the Earth’s most precious resources. 

Water covers over 70% of our planet’s surface but only 3% of this is fresh water and two thirds of that is held in the polar ice caps. Therefore, only 1% of the total is available for rivers, lakes, wetlands and human consumption.

Andy Webb – October 2005