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Cut your water consumption plea as the Kennet hits disaster low level

A desperate plea for people to cut down on their water consumption has been issued by Action River Kennet (ARK) because the rare chalk stream river that flows through Marlborough is at one of its lowest levels.

“The last really disaster year was 1982 and before that 1976,” Charlotte Hitchmough (pictured),” ARK’s director, told Marlborough News Online. “And the current situation is on a par with that. Everyone needs to help in whatever way they can.”

No water bans may be in operation, but ARK is putting pressure on Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury and Undersecretary of State at the Environment, for urgent changes to legislation to protect the Kennet.

“The river is very low, to use Environment Agency parlance its 'notably low', which means it is only likely  to be this low eight per cent of the time,” she said.

“The groundwater is well below normal for the time of year, which is why the river is so low/dry. We have had one of the driest springs on record, which followed one of the driest winters on record. 

“When the weather is warm and everyone wants to water their gardens and fill up their paddling pools, water consumption rises and it all comes from the same aquifer which feeds the river.

“Thames Water take out the water their customers demand, so it's a question of what everyone locally can do to reduce water consumption, as well as getting Thames to sort out an alternative to Axford as the supply point to Swindon.

“What they are doing is not illegal. The trouble is that the system now operating is rubbish.”

Members of ARK met Thames Water only last week to talk about Axford alternatives. “They are abstracting within the limit set for them by the Environment Agency, but It's a pretty nonsensical situation,” declared Charlotte.

Thames Water publishes on its websites the action people can take to save water, from shorter showers and turning off the tap while brushing your teeth to collecting rainwater and using water saving devices in toilets.

Thames Water has a solution to the current Axford abstraction of water -- a pipe to link north and south Swindon, which everyone agrees is a good solution. It wants to build the pipe and put it in their business plan, which means all Thames Water customers would pay for it.

However, OFWAT, the industry regulator, took it out of the business plan and declared that the Environment Agency should pay for the cost of the pipeline, except that it doesn’t have the funds to pay for it.

Meanwhile, the government has published its Natural Environment White Paper, which calls for changes, but the specifics will be in another White Paper dealing directly with water use, not due out until December.

“They will contain good recommendations but the critical point is when will they be translated into government policy and put into action? We just don’t know.”

Charlotte urges concerned residents to write both to Richard Benyon and to Marlborough MP Claire Perry seeking urgent action.

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  • IMG 9097
  • Marlborough-2013-04-18 St Peters
  • Silbury-Sunset---10-06-08-----07
  • IMG 8472
  • Town-Hall-2011-05-03 08-