ARK's delight as pipeline to protect the River Kennet is set to open on March 31

Written by Tony Millett on .

Inside one of the pipeline's booster stations (Photo: Thames Water) Inside one of the pipeline's booster stations (Photo: Thames Water) The new 17-kilometer Axford Pipeline to supply water to south Swindon will open on March 31 - cutting the amount of water that has been taken for domestic supplies from groundwaters that feed the Rivers Og and Kennet.

Thames Water’s project will protect the fragile River Kennet and River Og, by providing an alternative water supply for Swindon when river levels are low.  Pumping will cease at Ogbourne, and the amount taken at Axford water works will be reduced during periods of low flow on the Rivers Og and Kennet.

The £30million pipeline has been installed in response to the new Environment Agency requirements to protect the River Kennet - one of the world's 200 chalk streams.

The Kennet is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to wildlife such as water voles and brown trout.  Chalk streams are unique and important habitats and Action for the River Kennet (ARK) has campaigned for more than 20 years to reduce the amount of water exported from these rivers.

ARK is delighted the new pipeline will protect 'the little River Og and the River Kennet downstream from Marlborough during low flows'. ARK's director, Charlotte Hitchmough:  "The pipeline is very welcome and we congratulate Thames Water and the Environment Agency for making it possible."

ARK's battle to reduce water abstraction from the River Kennet began in the early 1990s and has seen the group give evidence at public enquiries, give a presentation  at the Houses of Parliament and take part in an episode of BBC’s Panorama.

ARK’s Chairman, Richard Clarke said "Action for the River Kennet’s concerted campaign has finally delivered results which will improve the water situation for the Rivers Kennet and Og."

Laying the pipeline alongside the A346 (November 2015)Laying the pipeline alongside the A346 (November 2015)The camouflaged booster station (Photo Thames Water) The camouflaged booster station (Photo Thames Water) The extensive works involved in laying the pipeline - that started in 2015 and have been visible alongside the A346 - has included the construction of three booster stations.  

One of these situated just east of the A419 - home to £3million worth of 'kit' - has been camouflaged to look like an agricultural barn. Thames Water project manager Stephen Doell: “The new booster station is clad in plastic mixed with woodchip, and it’s one of the best I’ve seen in terms of blending in. We’re committed to being good neighbours and always do what we can to work with local groups to ensure the best possible outcome for our customers and the environment.”

At Ogbourne the water treatment plant is being replaced with a booster station, and another is being installed at Whitefield reservoir (above the A346) to pump water up the hill there.

The Axford project involves 17km of pipeline which crosses a railway, a number of roads and goes under the M4. Along the way the work has turned up some interesting archaeological finds.

Swindon’s water supply will now be supported with water from Blunsdon and Farmoor reservoirs, via the new pipeline. The new pipeline is expected to prevent up to 10 million litres of groundwater, which could otherwise feed the River Kennet, being extracted daily during low flow periods.