North Herts District Council wades in to help protect River Ivel from over abstraction

The river Ivel at Radwell is dry. Picture: Catherine Wilmers

The river Ivel at Radwell is dry. Picture: Catherine Wilmers - Credit: Archant

A water company will be held to account over “the perilous state of a rare and ecologically-important chalk stream”.

Action group RevIvel Association - set up to address what members believe is an environmental emergency caused by over abstraction from the River Ivel by Affinity Water - now has the support of North Hertfordshire District Council in its endeavours to protect the river.

The Ivel flows through Baldock, Stotfold, Arlesey and Henlow, but the RevIvel Association says current water levels are catastrophic and it aims to ensure Affinity Water sufficiently invests in developing a range of water sources, or significantly reduces water wastage.

The council has now backed a motion by Councillor Tom Tyson to help protect the river.

Cllr Tyson, who represents the Arbury ward, expressed "concern about the perilous state of the upper reaches of the river Ivel and other local chalk streams, including the rivers Purwell and Hiz and St Ippolyts Brook".

He said: "The Ivel has been continuously dry from the Ivel Springs Local Nature Reserve to Radwell for well over a year, and there has been no flow in the upper Ivel during half the months of the previous four years.

"The Ivel is one of the rare and ecologically-important chalk streams of the Chiltern Chalk Aquifer. This is a resource we should cherish and protect. Instead, the watercourses are dry, the fish are dead and other wildlife is gone.

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"The disaster of the Ivel is not an isolated instance among the chalk streams of the Chiltern Chalk Aquifer: many others are suffering dangerously low levels and environmental harm."

The council intends to question Affinity Water over its plans for reducing abstraction rates and investing in measures to conserve and enhance the Ivel and other local chalk streams.

Assurance is also being sought from the Environment Agency that it will take action where Affinity Water allows its activities to harm the environment.

An Affinity Water spokesman said: "We are working closely with the Environment Agency, Herts County Council and stakeholders to improve the resilience of the ecosystem of the spring area. We have been assessing the conditions in Ivel Springs and from 2020 to 2025 we will be carrying out multiple actions to improve the top of the catchment. We take the preservation of the chalk streams very seriously."