News & Stories

GRIFF RHYS JONES: I thought we were the hip, aware, green generation… so why are we killing our rivers?

MAIL ONLINE – 16 August 2020

Salmon have gone. Eels have gone. Fish are expiring. Rivers have dried up. The weeds are rotting. The water is dying. We have a growing emergency. Little Welsh rivers such as the Llynfi have recently choked with dead fish. Singer-turned-campaigner Feargal Sharkey is pleading with us to pay attention to the chalk streams.

Griff Rhys Jones – Mail Online

Our rivers are in trouble and this distresses me. I love all our waterways. I have fallen in most of them.

I have paddled up to Runcorn. I have surfed the Severn Bore. I have punted the Great Ouse. I have kayaked the Wye. I have upset a coracle in Welsh rapids, abseiled through waterfalls in Scotland and swum in the Waveney. I remember the eerie feeling of the reeds brushing against my thighs and the sweet taste of fresh water in my mouth.

I even went ‘lave fishing’ with one the very few remaining operators in the Severn. That’s catching the fish with nothing but a net in the shallows. Not easy. But even then, 15 years ago, I was ashamed to discover that the highest recorded catch of salmon on that river had been as recently as the 1970s and the number had then sunk, during my own lifetime, to become a crisis. This year the few remaining lave fishermen who catch no more than six in a year have been ordered to stop to preserve stocks.

I also went out with our last remaining professional eel-catcher. His trade had died, in the very place where they named a cathedral after the huge number that used to be caught there, Ely.

Salmon have gone. Eels have gone. Fish are expiring. Rivers have dried up. The weeds are rotting. The water is dying. We have a growing emergency. Little Welsh rivers such as the Llynfi have recently choked with dead fish. Singer-turned-campaigner Feargal Sharkey is pleading with us to pay attention to the chalk streams.

What is going on? I thought we were a good, aware, hip, green generation. Yet things are getting worse and worse, while the water companies trumpet that we have never had it so good.

Comet article highlights RevIvel Campaign

The Comet – 13 August 2020

A community group desperately trying to save the river Ivel – home to a huge variety of rare and vulnerable wildlife – “from being lost forever” is urging people to join the fight.

The Ivel is a chalk stream which runs through Baldock, Stotfold, Arlesey and Henlow. There are fewer than 200 chalk streams in the world, with about 10 per cent found in Hertfordshire, and species like water vole, wild brown trout and mayflies depend solely on these chalk streams to survive in the county.

The RevIvel Association was formed in 2019 to challenge Affinity Water’s over abstraction from the river to supply homes and businesses.

Member Sharon Moat, who lives in Radwell, said: “The upper Ivel is perennial and would not naturally become dry. It used to have sufficient depth and flow all year round to be teeming with fish while also supporting four water mills, umpteen breweries and a watercress industry.

“The river is a mere trickle of its former self, at risk of being lost forever. Many in lockdown enjoyed walks along the riverbanks watching the butterflies and bees. Please help protect what remains.”

As part of action to restore, improve and protect the river Ivel, Sharon said Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Herts, is calling for an All Party Parliamentary Group for chalk streams, and Anthony Browne, MP for South Cambridgeshire, is calling for a DEFRA chalk stream taskforce.

RevIvel has also been instrumental in establishing the Chalk Aquifer Alliance – an umbrella organisation uniting independent chalk stream groups lobbying for the protection of these environments.

Sharon is urging more people to join RevIvel. She said: “The river Ivel is rare and important. Please don’t let it be lost on our watch.”

A spokesman for Affinity Water said: “We understand the concerns of residents regarding low flows along their local river and we are committed to improving globally rare chalk streams, such as the river Ivel.

“We do not take water directly from the river, but from deep underground in the chalk aquifer.

“Climate change, historical river alterations, natural seasonal flows, dry weather and the demand for water all play their part in the condition of chalk streams.

“We are working hard to adapt to the challenges that climate change is bringing to our local environments, whilst meeting increases in population and the demand for water.

“We do not take more water than is needed to supply the local area and operate within our licence conditions.

“However, we do recognise more needs to be done. We have a range of proposals we are developing and are meeting with the RevIvel group to discuss these. Amongst these proposals are actions to minimise the effect of abstractions in dry periods, restore sections of the river that have been heavily modified over time and reduce abstractions from groundwater by over 623,000 litres per day by 2025.

“Customers can play a part to help their environment too by being mindful of their water use. Simple actions such as using a watering can instead of a hosepipe, turning the tap off whilst brushing your teeth or using the dishwasher only when full can make a massive difference collectively.”

For more information, or to join RevIvel’s fight, follow the group on Twitter @IvelRev or visit

The government is looking the other way while Britain’s rivers die before our eyes

George Monbiot, The Guardian – 12 August 2020

You can judge the state of a nation by the state of its rivers. Pollution is the physical expression of corruption. So what should we conclude about a country whose rivers are systematically exploited, dumped on and bled dry?

I’m writing from the Welsh borders, where I’m supposed to be on holiday. It’s among the most beautiful regions of Britain, but the rivers here are dying before my eyes. When I last saw it, four years ago, the Monnow, a lovely tributary of the River Wye, had a mostly clean, stony bed. Now the bottom is smothered in slime and filamentous algae. In the back eddies, the rotting weed floats to the surface, carrying the stench of cow slurry…………

North Herts District council wades in

The Comet – 7 December 2019

A water company will be held to account over “the perilous state of a rare and ecologically-important chalk stream”.

Action group RevIvel Association – set up to address what members believe is an environmental emergency caused by over abstraction from the River Ivel by Affinity Water – now has the support of North Hertfordshire District Council in its endeavours to protect the river.

The Ivel flows through Baldock, Stotfold, Arlesey and Henlow, but the RevIvel Association says current water levels are catastrophic and it aims to ensure Affinity Water sufficiently invests in developing a range of water sources, or significantly reduces water wastage.

The council has now backed a motion by Councillor Tom Tyson to help protect the river.

Cllr Tyson, who represents the Arbury ward, expressed “concern about the perilous state of the upper reaches of the river Ivel and other local chalk streams, including the rivers Purwell and Hiz and St Ippolyts Brook”.

He said: “The Ivel has been continuously dry from the Ivel Springs Local Nature Reserve to Radwell for well over a year, and there has been no flow in the upper Ivel during half the months of the previous four years.

“The Ivel is one of the rare and ecologically-important chalk streams of the Chiltern Chalk Aquifer. This is a resource we should cherish and protect. Instead, the watercourses are dry, the fish are dead and other wildlife is gone.

“The disaster of the Ivel is not an isolated instance among the chalk streams of the Chiltern Chalk Aquifer: many others are suffering dangerously low levels and environmental harm.”

The council intends to question Affinity Water over its plans for reducing abstraction rates and investing in measures to conserve and enhance the Ivel and other local chalk streams.

Assurance is also being sought from the Environment Agency that it will take action where Affinity Water allows its activities to harm the environment.

An Affinity Water spokesman said: “We are working closely with the Environment Agency, Herts County Council and stakeholders to improve the resilience of the ecosystem of the spring area. We have been assessing the conditions in Ivel Springs and from 2020 to 2025 we will be carrying out multiple actions to improve the top of the catchment. We take the preservation of the chalk streams very seriously.”

RevIvel challenges environmental disaster of abstraction

The Comet – 5 November 2019

A new action group says saving the River Ivel from over abstraction is an environmental emergency, with current water levels catastrophic.

The RevIvel Association says it has developed an action plan to challenge the crisis facing the river Ivel, which runs through Baldock, Stotfold, Arlesey and Henlow.

Campaigner Sharon Moat, who lives in Radwell, said: “We are horrified by the impact of water abstraction by Affinity Water on all chalk rivers in their region. The state of the upper Ivel is of particular concern.

“The Ivel is one of only 225 chalk rivers worldwide – 80 per cent of which are in England. These chalk rivers rely on mineral-rich, pure clean water to survive. The current water levels are catastrophic. There has been no flow above Radwell for the last 14 months. The river is dry.

“If, as a society, we are outraged by the burning of the Amazon or the decline of the Arctic polar ice caps, we should be equally outraged by this environmental disaster on our own doorstep.

“This is an environmental emergency. There is already extensive damage.”

The action group’s inaugural meeting at Radwell Village Hall was attended by groups including the Ivel Protection Association, Inland Waterways Association and Stotfold Mill.

Sharon said: “Our aim is the restoration of sufficient flow to sustain brown trout all year round in the upper Ivel.

“Our most urgent action is to challenge the Affinity Asset Management Plan 7. We have seen extracts which show they are only proposing superficial investments. Unless provision is included for investment to develop a range of alternative water sources, or significantly reduce water wastage, our precious chalk streams will remain in their highly damaged state due to ongoing excessive water abstraction.”

Sharon says a hydrogeologist is helping the group outline the investments needed to safeguard the chalk streams.

She added: “The aquifer is a large underground lake, with the chalk streams fed by it. It would be of benefit to establish an ‘aquifer partnership’, where everyone interested in our chalk rivers can collaborate with the government, local authorities, water companies and businesses to maximise the natural value of the environment and minimise future damage.”

An Affinity Water spokesperson said: “Climate change, drought, historical river alterations, catchment land use changes, demand for water and abstraction all play their part in the condition of England’s rare chalk streams.

“Our senior leadership team recognises the environment as a top priority. We know much more needs to be done and we are looking at a range of options to help revitalise the rare chalk streams in our supply area.

“We are working closely with the Environment Agency, Herts County Council and local stakeholders to improve the resilience of the ecosystem of the spring area. We have been assessing the conditions in Ivel Springs and from 2020 to 2025 we will be carrying out multiple actions to improve the top of the catchment, mainly in the spring area.

“The first action will be river restoration works with the aim to return the river to its more natural state following historical alterations, and, in addition, we will be considering direct river support by using groundwater sources when needed.

“We take the preservation of the chalk streams very seriously and we are committed to getting the balance right. We must protect the environment, while at the same time supply high-quality water to our customers.”

To find out more about the RevIvel Association, email .

Concerns for low water at Ivel Springs

The Comet – 8 October 2019

A new scheme has been designed to bring water back to Ivel Springs nature reserve in Baldock after recent concerns over a dry riverbed.

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald has been in contact with the Environment Agency and Affinity Water, and raised the issue in a recent House of Commons debate.

Sir Oliver said: “I have a long-standing campaign to maintain and improve river quality across our eight chalk streams locally.

“I have been very concerned about reports of low water levels particularly at Ivel Springs and it is good to know that Affinity Water have a scheme to get the water flowing.”

Councillor Steve Jarvis, North Herts District Council’s executive member for environment and leisure, added: “In recent months the level of rainfall has been lower than expected at this time of year which has significantly contributed to the lack of water at Ivel Springs.

“The council is currently producing a Green Space Action Plan, which includes maintaining and enhancing the wetland areas as an objective, and we will be working with Affinity Water, Countryside Management Service and Friends of Baldock Green Spaces group to achieve this.”