All data presented courtesy of the Environment Agency and Met Office (Crown copy right
January started with generally mild, unsettled and wet conditions with close to the average monthly rainfall in the
first two weeks. The second half of the month saw much drier and colder weather. Over January’s rainfall in the
Upper Bedford Ouse catchment (including the Ivel) was 103% of Long-Term Average (LTA).
Monthly rainfall totals for the past 12 months as a percentage of the 1961-1990 LTA
Despite receiving above average rainfall in October and November the Upper Bedford Ouse catchment remains in
Soil Moisture Deficit (SMD)
The Met Office MORECS grid squares covering the Ivel has remains at 0-10mm SMD, having reached field capacity
and recharge is underway. The west and south of the region has received more rain over the last few months, and
this is reflected in the SMD chart compared to northern and eastern areas.
Soil Moisture deficits for week ending 31 January 2023. Data based on MORECS data for real land use.
Soil Moisture deficit (SMD) – The difference between the amount of water in the soil and the amount of water that
the soil can hold (field capacity).
Field Capacity (FC)-The amount of water the soil can hold is generally called field capacity which is the amount of
water that remains after gravitational forces have drained water from the soil.
Ground Water (GW):
Looking at the regional picture across the East Anglian chalk, GW levels are now classed as Normal compared to
historic January levels. Data is presented from a borehole at Charlton, nr Hitchin showing recovery in GW levels, it
being at the bottom of the normal range. It can be considered broadly similar to the situation in boreholes at
Springs and River flows:
The main spring at Ivel Springs in Baldock started to flow on 14 th January 2023.
The second spring at the Ivel Springs nature reserve (upstream of culvert) in Baldock started to flow on 1 st January
Flow at Blackhorse mill was seen by the end of the first week in January 2023.
Three springs now flow in Radwell meadows.
The river Ivel flows are officially measured at Blunham. The river has been low to notable low through the summer
but returned to normal (green zone) during October-December period. In January, the river at Blunham has
responded directly to significant rainfall events (relative wet condition in first half of January followed by a dry
second half of the month). By the end of the month, with the lack of rainfall, the river flow had reduced to the
bottom of the “normal” range.
Water from the Ouse is transferred at Offord into Grafham Water.
Recovery of reservoir stocks in Grafham Water remains slow with the reservoir currently only 75% full (blue line on
graph) (Notably Low). The current stock levels are a long way from the normal operating level of 90%+.
End of January Grafham Water reservoir stock compared to the Normal operating Curve, Drought Curve
and 1995-1996 stock levels.
Thank fully Oct- Nov – Dec 2022 were wet months with 150% of LTA.
January rainfall was 103% of the LTA.
A lot more rain is needed in February and March 2023 to support the continued recharge of the aquifer and to
improve the chances of flow of the chalk springs in Baldock, Norton and Radwell in the spring and summer months
The Upper Bedford Ouse catchment has been in official drought since end June 2022.Over this time Affinity Water
has applied its drought management plan with the local area being in Drought Level 1 and Drought Level 2 (4 levels
in total). The focus of the drought management to date has been to reduce customer demand and reduce
leakages…. Pumping of the groundwater from the boreholes around Baldock and Letchworth continued throughout
July to December. Affinity Water abstracted all the water they could within legal and physical limits irrespective of
rainfall / aquifer recharge. Throughout this time no temporary drought orders were applied (no hosepipe ban).
Affinity Water fully accept their actions will see chalk stream dry up for long periods of time……….
Since 2019, when RevIvel have been highlighting the plight of the chalk headwaters of the Ivel and Affinity Water
have been making all the right noises, more water has been taken from the aquifer than ever before!
Consequence, the river Ivel and its associated flora and fauna continues to suffer……..