Water supply is under threat

WATER supplies in Comet country are under immense pressure, and the environment is under threat, with rivers on the edge of ruin . This is according to a national report by the world s leading conservation body, WWF, called Rivers on the Edge. It singles

WATER supplies in Comet country are under immense pressure, and the environment is under threat, with rivers "on the edge of ruin".

This is according to a national report by the world's leading conservation body, WWF, called Rivers on the Edge.

It singles out the River Beane, which flows through Stevenage and Walkern, and the River Mimram, which flows through Whitwell and Lilley Bottom, as upper tributaries of the River Lee which completely dry out.

The report found tributaries to be so depleted that, in dry periods, most of the water running in the Lee comes from sewage treatment plants.


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The Mimram, Beane, Ash, Rib and Stort flow through 14 nature reserves in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire and are home to species including otter, water vole, bittern and brown trout, which are now at risk.

These rivers are also the main water source for towns including Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hertford and Luton, with 409 million litres of water abstracted daily.

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And the pressures they are under will only increase in the years ahead.

To meet Government-set targets by 2021, 16,000 new homes will be built in Stevenage - 9,600 of which will form extensions to Stevenage, within the North Herts boundary. In addition to this development, North Herts must accommodate another 6,200 new properties and Mid Beds must find room for 14,230 new homes.

And there are also plans to expand Luton by building 5,500 in the Lilley valley.

As well as increased demand as our population grows and our lifestyles change, there is a decreasing supply of water as climate change affects rainfall and river flows.

The Environment Agency and the government conservation watchdog, Natural England, say the underlying problem is that water companies have abstraction licences which were issued before national legislation was introduced in 1963. These licences have no expiry date, so companies can continue taking water regardless of changed conditions.

Each person in Britain now uses an average of 148 litres of water a day.

The WWF report says: "We call on Government, regulators and the water industry to reduce water consumption to 130 litres per person per day - that's a reduction of just 12.5 per cent. This could help save the average family �200 per year in energy bills alone and help to protect our natural environment."

It says the target must be met "to ensure we stop using water wastefully; that abstraction does not unacceptably damage our rivers now and in the future; that we adapt to the potential impacts of climate change; and that we protect the future security of our water supplies".

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