Campaign group’s plea to help save river Ivel from over abstraction

PUBLISHED: 17:17 13 August 2020

This photograph of the river Ivel between Norton Mill Lane and Radwell shows how the water level has dropped. Picture: Courtesy of Sharon Moat

This photograph of the river Ivel between Norton Mill Lane and Radwell shows how the water level has dropped. Picture: Courtesy of Sharon Moat

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A community group desperately trying to save the river Ivel – home to a huge variety of rare and vulnerable wildlife – “from being lost forever” is urging people to join the fight.

The Ivel is a chalk stream which runs through Baldock, Stotfold, Arlesey and Henlow. There are fewer than 200 chalk streams in the world, with about 10 per cent found in Hertfordshire, and species like water vole, wild brown trout and mayflies depend solely on these chalk streams to survive in the county.

The RevIvel Association was formed in 2019 to challenge Affinity Water’s over abstraction from the river to supply homes and businesses.

Member Sharon Moat, who lives in Radwell, said: “The upper Ivel is perennial and would not naturally become dry. It used to have sufficient depth and flow all year round to be teeming with fish while also supporting four water mills, umpteen breweries and a watercress industry.

“The river is a mere trickle of its former self, at risk of being lost forever. Many in lockdown enjoyed walks along the riverbanks watching the butterflies and bees. Please help protect what remains.”

As part of action to restore, improve and protect the river Ivel, Sharon said Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Herts, is calling for an All Party Parliamentary Group for chalk streams, and Anthony Browne, MP for South Cambridgeshire, is calling for a DEFRA chalk stream taskforce.

RevIvel has also been instrumental in establishing the Chalk Aquifer Alliance – an umbrella organisation uniting independent chalk stream groups lobbying for the protection of these environments.

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Sharon is urging more people to join RevIvel. She said: “The river Ivel is rare and important. Please don’t let it be lost on our watch.”

A spokesman for Affinity Water said: “We understand the concerns of residents regarding low flows along their local river and we are committed to improving globally rare chalk streams, such as the river Ivel.

“We do not take water directly from the river, but from deep underground in the chalk aquifer.

“Climate change, historical river alterations, natural seasonal flows, dry weather and the demand for water all play their part in the condition of chalk streams.

“We are working hard to adapt to the challenges that climate change is bringing to our local environments, whilst meeting increases in population and the demand for water.

“We do not take more water than is needed to supply the local area and operate within our licence conditions.

“However, we do recognise more needs to be done. We have a range of proposals we are developing and are meeting with the RevIvel group to discuss these. Amongst these proposals are actions to minimise the effect of abstractions in dry periods, restore sections of the river that have been heavily modified over time and reduce abstractions from groundwater by over 623,000 litres per day by 2025.

“Customers can play a part to help their environment too by being mindful of their water use. Simple actions such as using a watering can instead of a hosepipe, turning the tap off whilst brushing your teeth or using the dishwasher only when full can make a massive difference collectively.”

For more information, or to join RevIvel’s fight, follow the group on Twitter @IvelRev or visit riverivel.wordpress.com


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