Water situation for Upper Ivel – June 2023
All data presented courtesy of the Environment Agency and Met Office (Crown copy right 2023)
Following on from the high-pressure weather dominating East Anglia in late May, the dry conditions persisted and there was little rainfall throughout June. Across our Upper Bedford Ouse catchment rainfall amounted to 56% of Long-Term Average (LTA).
The 3-month average (April- June 2023) for our catchment had 86% (normal) and the six-month average at 106% of LTA.
Soil Moisture Deficit (SMD)
The soil moisture deficits [SMD] continued to rapidly increase following the dry weather in late May and June.
Soil Moisture deficits for week ending 30 June 2023. Data based on weekly MORECS data for real land use and compared to an analysis of historic 1961 – 1990 LTA dataset.
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).
Ground Water (GW):
By the end of June, groundwater levels at all indicator boreholes had begun to decline, as expected at this time of year with little groundwater recharge occurring.
Springs and River flows:
The main spring at Ivel Springs in Baldock started to flow on 14 th January 2023 but has ceased to flow as of 24th June 2023, effective flowing for only 23 weeks in the year. This spring should flow year-round albeit at reduced flow
levels in late summer / early autumn….Historically the mill at Blackhorse (closed in 1870s) would have milled wheat
year-round for the people of Baldock and surrounding villages.
The second spring at the Ivel Springs nature reserve (upstream of culvert) in Baldock started to flow on 1st January 2023. We can expect this spring to stop flow in the coming days.
Flow at Blackhorse mill started by the end of the first week in January 2023.We can expect to see a significant reduction in flow at Black horse mill in the coming days and it is likely flow will cease during July. Something to watch out for….
The river Ivel flows are officially measured at Blunham. Heavy rain events in March and early May saw increased
flow which returned to normal in the second half of May and remained normal throughout June (Green Zone).
Water from the Ouse is transferred at Offord into Grafham Water reservoir.
After twelve months of reduced capacity Grafham Water reservoir has finally reached 94% full (blue line on graph) which is in line with the normal operating level of 90%+.
End of June 2023 Grafham Water reservoir stock compared to the Normal operating Curve, Drought Curve and 1995-1996 stock levels.
Recharge of the chalk aquifer relies on the amount of rainfall through the autumn and winter months. Overall, the last 6 months has seen good recharge conditions with overall 106% of Long-Term Average (LTA).
The Upper Bedford Ouse catchment has been in official drought since end June 2022. The exceptional rain fall in March and continued aquifer recharge into mid-May 2023 has thankfully resulted in a change in status to “Recovering Drought, much to the relief of the Affinity Water and the Environment Agency.
Affinity Water has recently changed Ivel catchment classification from drought zone 1 to average. Sadly, Affinity Water seem to rely on such exceptional “GET OUT OF JAIL CARDS”, without any real plan other than continuing to abstract ground water (GW) as much as is legally and / or physically possible every month. For the nine months period of drought experienced in 2022/ 2023 Affinity did not instigate any hosepipe bans instead they continued to pump water from the ground and allowed the river to dry all the way from Baldock to Radwell (acknowledged result of their Drought Plan).
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!
Consequently, the river Ivel and its associated flora and fauna continues to suffer……..