Thames launches vital Care for the Kennet campaign to save water
Britain’s first awareness campaign urging people to use water wisely to protect their local river – and targeted at the River Kennet that flows through Marlborough – is being launched today (Monday) by Thames Water.
Care for the Kennet, directly aimed at communities along the upper reaches of the world-renowned chalk stream, is the first in a series of seven Thames regional river protection campaigns following a year of exceptionally low rainfall.
Billboard posters have already gone up at Hungerford train station, and others are to go up in Marlborough in the New Year, urging people to use less water in order to leave more in the Kennet, currently also clogged with fallen leaves because of its poor flow.
Thames Water poster urging less use of water
The campaign is backed by Marlborough-based ARK (Action for the River Kennet) and by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-UK, the environmental groups, who have criticised Thames for pumping too much water out of the Kennet to serve households in Swindon.
And support has come too from local MP Claire Perry, who is pressing the government to help the Environment Agency pay the £10 million cost of a new pipeline to take water from the River Thames at Farmoor Reservoir, halving Swindon’s reliance on water from the Kennet.
The campaign also offer customers free water-saving gadgets – good Christmas presents -- via Waterwisely, www.thameswater.co.uk/waterwisely, the company’s online water-conscious community, or they can be ordered by calling 0800 358 6665.
Richard Aylard, sustainability director for Thames Water, told Marlborough News Online: “We are adding a new dimension to encouraging water-wise behaviour by making a direct link between the water we use and the local river it comes from.”
“In the case of Marlborough and Hungerford, the less water we use, the less we need to take from the River Kennet, and the more there’ll be to go around.”
“Although we had a very grey summer, 18 of the last 20 months have seen below-average rainfall in the Kennet area, which has led to low flows in the river.”
“And there is a very real threat of a drought next summer. This is not just our problem – it’s everyone’s problem.”
“While we have got leakage from our network down to its lowest-ever level, we are also calling on customers to use water wisely – not leaving taps running while we brush our teeth can save six litres a minute, and one minute less in the shower can save 10 litres.”
ARK director Charlotte Hitchmough said: “The River Kennet above Marlborough looks like a footpath this week. There is no water in the river, and hundreds of fish have died. Further downstream the river is shallower than we have ever known it. Water is a precious resource -- the less we use the more will be left for the river and its wildlife, so we are pleased to be working with Thames Water to help everyone to value every drop.”
Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, who has championed the work of ARK, pointed out: “Anything that reduces the stress on the vulnerable River Kennet is to be warmly welcomed, and Care for the Kennet has my full support.”
“We now need to hear that the plan for a pipeline to take water from the River Thames at Farmoor Reservoir is moving ahead as that is the best long-term solution for the river.”
So far this year only 468mm of rain has fallen compared with the annual average of 739mm in the Thames Water region, classed by the Environment Agency as “seriously water stressed”.
That means all available water-abstraction points are already being used.
Thames needs around 80 percent of its long-term average winter rainfall to rule out the likelihood of drought-related water-use restrictions next year.
Richard Aylard added: “We are watching the situation very carefully and if we have another dry winter then we could face a drought next summer.”
“Winter rain is vitally important -- more so than summer rain, which tends to be used up by plants and lost to evaporation -- because it recharges the underground aquifers which drive flows in the rivers across the region throughout the following year.”
“One dry winter does not necessarily lead to problems but two in a row can, which is why we are hoping for decent rainfall this winter, as well as urging people to be water-wise.”