We are delighted that Anthony Browne MP for South Cambridge is joining us in calling on Defra to establish a ‘Chalk Streams Task Force’ to develop a Strategy to restore natural flows to Chalk streams. We have worked with Water Resources East to draw up an eight-point plan to kick-start the Task Force’s work. We are working to build a strong coalition of support for this initiative, which recognises that national policy on managing our water resources has to change.
You can download Mr Browne’s letter to the DEFRA Minister, Rebecca Pow, and our initial plan below
Cam valley Forum publishes Let it Flow! – detailed proposals to restore the River Cam
Our new report – Let it Flow! – explains the environmental impact of water abstraction on the Cam Valley and calls for actions in seven main areas to protect and restore the river:
Substantial reductions in groundwater abstraction from the aquifer that feeds our Chalk streams. Where the water environment is being damaged, licences need to be amended or terminated to deliver real cuts in actual abstraction, not just paper savings in licensed amounts
Investment in new sources of public supplies. Proposed strategic north-south transfers of water should be extended to benefit the Cam Valley too. Locally, high river flows should be captured in a new reservoir in the lower Cam Valley, once they have flowed through it in as natural a way as possible, and be redistributed as necessary.
Investment in water reuse and aquifer recharge schemes. Sewage treatment works need to be upgraded to deliver better treated water to be reused for public supplies and to recharge the aquifer and/or to support irrigation.
Investment in the harvesting of rainwater and recycling of greywater. Our local planning authorities need to ensure that schemes to harvest and recycle water become commonplace and help to make Cambridge a ‘Water Sensitive City’.
A step-change in attitudes to water use through metering, leakage control and demand management. Cambridge should become the ‘No. 1’ water-saving city and the Anglian Region the ‘No. 1’ water saving region in England.
Significant reductions in water pollution and investment in work to enhance habitats and natural processes. Action is also needed to: reduce pollution from land, businesses and homes; and to rectify the impacts of past river modifications, which have reduced connectivity between reaches (e.g. weirs) and between rivers and their floodplains.
Improved resilience, not only for public water supplies but also for the environment. An increasing population, economic growth, intensive land management, and climate change, will all bring new pressures to bear on the Cam Valley’s limited and precious water resources. We all have a moral obligation to protect our river environments for future generations to enjoy.
Our 12 further recommendations are being submitted to Water Resources East, the body currently charged with planning the future for water resources in our Region. We want to work with the other members of Water Resources East to create an ‘Integrated Water Resource Management Plan’ to secure the best possible outcomes from this process.
We commend Let it Flow! to everyone with an interest in the environment of the Cam Valley. We would welcome comments and support and look forward to developing our ideas further in close consultation with all relevant interests in the months to come.
You can download the full Let it Flow! report here and the four-page summary with the 12 recommendations here
We have today published our River Cam Manifesto to urge everyone to wake up to the fact that all is not well with our rivers.
As the map below from the Environment Agency’s report for July 2019 shows, the flow rate in the River Cam flow is now exceptionally low, at just 33% of the long term average.
In part this exceptionally low river level is due to low rainfall (agravated by climate change), but it is also due to over abstraction of our precious ground water, which is reaching critically low levels.
We see this because our chalk streams, which are a globally important habitat, are drying up. Even when the stream is not totally dry, the water quality is often “poor” because there is insufficient water flow to dilute the pollution from sewage works, sceptic tanks and agriculture.
Few realise that in an attempt to save them, our chalk streams are being artifically augmented. About 20% of the groundwater that is pumped from our aquifiers is pumped to the head of the chalk streams and allowed to flow down them and ultimately out to sea. This may disguise the problem, but it is no fix, and ignoring it will ultimately be a disaster for us all when the taps run dry.
The only solution is for us all to take action both personally and politically to save water and save our streams. And to start now. This includes:
Visiting and caring for our threatened streams
All of us using less water
Demanding that the new Local Plan requires all new housing developments to use “grey water” (eg for flushing toilets)
Requiring water companies to dramatically reduce leakage and invest in new reservoirs, natural water catchment and flood prevention
Giving our regulators teeth and the abilty to use them