Saturday, 12 May 2012

Government must do more for the River Kennet

The WWF has called on the Coalition Government to do more to address the drought conditions affecting many English rivers, including the River Kennet:

"As England’s drought restrictions come into force today, we believe the government must ramp up efforts to protect people and nature from drought – including introducing the widespread roll-out of water metering.
After two unusually dry winters, seven water companies - Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East - have imposed hosepipe bans across large parts of the country, with most of England in or at high risk of drought. Although we’re urging the public to do all they can to save water, we’re also calling on the government and water companies to do far more.

We want them to lead the way and act with a sense of urgency to push for near universal water metering and to reform laws on how much water we take (abstract) from rivers - currently we take too much. Whilst abstraction reform is proposed by the government’s Water White Paper, a new law is unlikely until after the next general election. No plans for the roll-out of metering were made in the White Paper and no timetable, other than ad hoc improvements, have been put forward to tackle the issue. This is despite the government’s own estimated figures that the strategic roll-out of water metering could save the country £1.5 billion.

WWF’s freshwater expert, Dr Rose Timlett, said: “The government needs to be doing much more in response to the drought and should learn from the example of other countries. Parts of drought-stricken US and Australia are light years ahead of us, using a combination of water meters, rewards for water saving, efficiency kits and intermittent restrictions, to save up to 30% off water demand.

“Hosepipe bans are currently necessary, but they’re a quick fix and won’t solve the problems long-term. Unless the government does more and with a greater sense of urgency we might face the harsh consequences of losing unique wildlife in the not too distant future.”

How is the environment coping?
Water is the lifeblood of the river. When we have too little it affects everything in it - from the smallest bug to the biggest fish. At the moment rivers across the south and east are flowing below normal levels. Some are drying up completely, which can have immediate effects – fish get distressed and can suffocate, some plants and aquatic bugs that are the basis of the food chain die-off – and even when flows return it can take many years for the ecosystem to recover. Over time, low water levels can change the very nature of the ecosystem: fish spawning and migration are impacted, plant and bug populations change, the river can become choked with silt, and pollutants are more concentrated."

If you would like to help in protecting the future of the River Kennet contact your MP and ask him/her to

a) support a call for water metering as a national policy, and
b) stop the abstraction from the River Kennet by Thames Water for water use outside the Kennet catchment.

Whilst you are doing this why not also ask them to support your right to canoe and kayak on the River Kennet.

Your MP can be contacted as follows.

Claire Perry (Devizes)

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 7050
Fax: 020 7219 1385
Renelec House, 46 New Park Street, Devizes, SN10 1DT
Tel: 01380 729358

Richard Benyon (Newbury)

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 8319
Fax: 020 7219 4509
6 Cheap Street, Newbury, RG14 5DD
Tel: 01635 551070
Fax: 01635 569690

Alok Sharma (Reading West)

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 7131
16c Upton Road, Tilehurst, Reading, RG30 4BJ
Tel: 0118-941 3803

John Redwood (Wokingham)

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4205
Fax: 020 7219 0377
30 Rose Street, Wokingham, RG40 1XU
Tel: 0118-962 9501
Fax: 0118-962 9323

Rob Wilson (Reading East)

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 2498, 020 7219 6519
Fax: 020 7219 0847
12a South View Park, Marsack Street, Reading, RG4 5AF
Tel: 0118-375 9785