Monday, 21 March 2011

Kennet abstraction threat escalates

For some strange reason my daughter didn't want to go paddling in last Saturday's sunshine, but she couldn't avoid the river entirely as she was dragged out on a walk up to West Kennet Long Barrow, and from there on to Swallowhead Springs to see how the aquifer was managing to recharge the Kennet after noting the CEH February Hydrological summary which stated that

"the winter (Dec-Feb) precipitation total for the UK was considerably below average (for the third successive year)... Fortunately, the above average February rainfall and near-saturated soil conditions made for plentiful replenishment to reservoirs, and most aquifers, across the majority of the country...After a belated seasonal recovery, groundwater levels are within the normal range across most outcrop areas but still considerably below the early spring average in parts of the southern Chalk... In those areas with significant long term rainfall deficiencies weather patterns in the early spring will be particularly influential in determining the water resources outlook."

On first view things didn't look as bad as I'd feared after the prolonged Autumn dry spell...

The view from between West Kennet Long Barrow and Swallowhead Springs looking North East towards the first bridge over the Kennet after the springs. The river is running again...  

...and on arriving at Swallowhead there was some water flowing out of the springs as well as from the upstream winterbournes, as would be expected in contribution to the flow at this time of year.

By Sunday morning the situation was looking a lot bleaker, with the news that Thames Water have applied to increase their abstraction from the Kennet over the next two years.

This shortsighted plan to take an additional 639 million litres of water per year on top of the 3,410 million litres already extracted from the aquifer at the Axford pumping station will undoubtedly further damage the Kennet and all its wildlife at a time when it is already under severe pressure, and can only be regarded as an escalation of environmental vandalism on an historically monumental scale.

Thames Water's Axford pumping station was reported to have been damaged in a futile protest attack during 2010.  This barely noticed gesture made at an obscure location was never likely to have influenced Thames Water's plans.

In this digital age the application itself is somewhat obscurely lodged as a paper document and if you want to see it you'll have to travel to the Environment Agency's offices in Wallingford during normal working hours - so much for public openness. 

If you want to object you only have until the 24 March 2011, and the easiest way, given the time constraints, is by email: (don't forget to quote reference number NPS/WR/005711 and the name of the applicant, Thames Water).