Action group to challenge 'environmental disaster of River Ivel over abstraction'

PUBLISHED: 06:58 05 November 2019

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

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

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A new action group says saving the River Ivel from over abstraction is an environmental emergency, with current water levels catastrophic.

The RevIvel Association says it has developed an action plan to challenge the crisis facing the river Ivel, which runs through Baldock, Stotfold, Arlesey and Henlow.

Campaigner Sharon Moat, who lives in Radwell, said: "We are horrified by the impact of water abstraction by Affinity Water on all chalk rivers in their region. The state of the upper Ivel is of particular concern.

"The Ivel is one of only 225 chalk rivers worldwide - 80 per cent of which are in England. These chalk rivers rely on mineral-rich, pure clean water to survive. The current water levels are catastrophic. There has been no flow above Radwell for the last 14 months. The river is dry.

"If, as a society, we are outraged by the burning of the Amazon or the decline of the Arctic polar ice caps, we should be equally outraged by this environmental disaster on our own doorstep.

"This is an environmental emergency. There is already extensive damage."

The action group's inaugural meeting at Radwell Village Hall was attended by groups including the Ivel Protection Association, Inland Waterways Association and Stotfold Mill.

Sharon said: "Our aim is the restoration of sufficient flow to sustain brown trout all year round in the upper Ivel.

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"Our most urgent action is to challenge the Affinity Asset Management Plan 7. We have seen extracts which show they are only proposing superficial investments. Unless provision is included for investment to develop a range of alternative water sources, or significantly reduce water wastage, our precious chalk streams will remain in their highly damaged state due to ongoing excessive water abstraction."

Sharon says a hydrogeologist is helping the group outline the investments needed to safeguard the chalk streams.

She added: "The aquifer is a large underground lake, with the chalk streams fed by it. It would be of benefit to establish an 'aquifer partnership', where everyone interested in our chalk rivers can collaborate with the government, local authorities, water companies and businesses to maximise the natural value of the environment and minimise future damage."

An Affinity Water spokesperson said: "Climate change, drought, historical river alterations, catchment land use changes, demand for water and abstraction all play their part in the condition of England's rare chalk streams.

"Our senior leadership team recognises the environment as a top priority. We know much more needs to be done and we are looking at a range of options to help revitalise the rare chalk streams in our supply area.

"We are working closely with the Environment Agency, Herts County Council and local 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, mainly in the spring area.

"The first action will be river restoration works with the aim to return the river to its more natural state following historical alterations, and, in addition, we will be considering direct river support by using groundwater sources when needed.

"We take the preservation of the chalk streams very seriously and we are committed to getting the balance right. We must protect the environment, while at the same time supply high-quality water to our customers."

To find out more about the RevIvel Association, email sharon@sharonmoat.co.uk.

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