Affinity Water, the largest water-only supplier in the UK, has announced plans to significantly reduce its groundwater abstraction from chalk streams in the Ver, Mimram, Upper Lea and Misbourne catchments by the year 2024.
Director of corporate affairs with the supplier Jake Rigg recently visited the Chiltern chalk streams and explained that the plan is to work with its partners to reduce the amount of water taken from these sites, as well as investing in natural habitats and bringing communities together to achieve this goal, the Welwyn Hatfield Times reports.
He went on to say that 65 per cent of drinking water in the south-east of England comes from the chalk aquifer, the same one that these chalk streams rely on to keep running. But increased pressure is being put on aquifers because of abstraction, climate change and the growing population.
“We are not making promises that we cannot deliver on – we are putting in place a plan that will restore the chalk streams and deliver high quality water to the ever-growing population in the south east of England at an affordable price as we live through a climate emergency,” Mr Rigg was quoted by the news source as saying.
Area director for the Environment Agency Sam Lumb made further comments, saying that population growth in the south-east is such that more water is now required but climate change pressures mean that the amount of available water is continuing to decline… which means that water abstraction has to be sustainable.
What is water abstraction?
Groundwater abstraction involves taking water from a ground source, whether that’s temporarily or permanently. Most of the water taken in this way is used for drinking water or irrigation and controls are often in place to limit the amount of water that can be removed.
Too much abstraction can result in rivers and streams drying up, or the level of groundwater aquifers reducing too far. In England, the majority of businesses that take more than 20,000 litres of water a day from rivers or groundwater will need to have an abstraction licence in place.
The government wants to bring an end to damaging levels of abstraction, wherever it is cost-effective to do so. Data shows that 82 per cent of surface water bodies and 72 per cent of groundwater bodies have sufficient water to protect the environment, but more must be done to drive further improvements and protect the progress that has been made thus far.
As well as helping support the environment, it is also necessary to ensure that increases in abstraction don’t introduce new problems. Some five per cent of surface water and 15 per cent of groundwater bodies are currently at risk of increased water use from licence holders, which could harm the environment – and these risks need to be managed closely.