Last chance to save and restore the Ivel
Despite RevIvel’s persistent and determined efforts, the response of Affinity Water and the Environment Agency has been wholly inadequate to date to save the upper Ivel chalk stream.
Over-abstraction in the chalk catchments and potential solutions are being addressed nationally in the regional water resource management plans. Affinity Water is part of Water Resource South East (WRSE) which is compiling its regional plan for the next 100 years. Through this process, priority catchments are being identified for reduction in abstraction.
We need to draft in expert help to navigate the maze of “hoops” (complex procedures, technical submissions etc) to get our rare and precious Ivel chalk stream formally onto the national list of required abstraction reduction.
Currently Affinity Water abstracts (takes) about 14 .7 million litres per day; this rate exceeds the rate of recharge (natural replenishment) of the aquifer which feeds the river Ivel, especially in years with low winter rainfall.
The Ivel is one of the most over-abstracted chalk streams in the UK. Current best practice suggests that 15% abstraction as a percentage of recharge, (c.2 million litres per day) would be sustainable to maintain a healthy river.
The upper Ivel is suffering badly.
Affinity Water is obliged to supply its customers, so if abstraction were reduced as outlined above, the shortfall of about 12 million litres per day at Baldock would have to be met by other means. Affinity Water plans to import 25 million litres per day from Grafham Water by 2025 to supply its network. It is critical that the Letchworth/ Baldock/Stotfold area gets a fair proportion of this to alleviate pressure on the Ivel.
There should be water and flow in the upper Ivel all year round as evidenced by the fact that at the beginning of the twentieth century (early 1900s) the first 6km of river between Baldock and Astwick powered five watermills, enabled a thriving watercress industry, supplied plentiful fresh water for umpteen breweries and supported a brown trout hatchery.
At this time of year, in January, the river flow should be recovering as groundwater levels rise due to autumn/winter rainfall. However due to lack of rainfall since October 2021, this is not happening.
To compound this, Affinity Water continually takes too much water, preventing the springs from flowing. The official source of the river Ivel at Ivel Springs Nature Reserve is dry and has been so since August 2021. There is a major risk that the River Ivel will dry up in 2022. Time is running out to save our upper Ivel.
These images were taken on 27th January 2022 at Ivel Springs, Baldock.
Where there should be water there is none.
And where is water, the depth is very low, it’s stagnant with no flow.
We need expert consultancy help to save the Ivel.
John Lawson, with extensive qualifications, experience and connections in this field, has agreed to work with us to help get the Ivel onto the WRSE priority abstraction reduction list.
We need to raise £2,000 by 31 March 2022 to fund this necessary work so we are starting a campaign to increase more awareness with the local community.
This will include press releases and social media appeals to enhance our membership numbers, ask for donations, and encourage anyone with pictures and stories about the Ivel in better days to share with us, as this strengthens our case that in days gone by, the Ivel flowed all year round.