I will be raising the issue of the condition of rivers in England in Westminster Hall from 2.30 until 4 on Wednesday 13 May. I hope that this debate will expand upon my recent Early Day Motion 1392, which has attracted all-Party support with 39 signatures already, but also cover the issues English chalk rivers face from over-abstraction, pollution and excess development (the East of England plan); the political nature of the problem and the role of the Environment Agency, the water companies (Three Valleys Water and Thames included) and OfWat; Government sponsored and other possible solutions, and also climate change.
WWF, with its partners (Angling Trust, Association of Rivers Trusts, etc.) are running two campaigns “Our Rivers” launched last week and “Rivers on the Edge”, which is launched tomorrow. Both campaigns highlight the plight of the Mimram and other rivers.
In North East Herts we have 7 chalk rivers/streams (the Ash, the Beane, the Ivel, the Mimram, the Quin, the Rib and the Upper Rhee). The Mimram – shared with Peter Lilley, Grant Shapps and Mark Prisk – has been in difficulties over recent years with long stretches running dry due to high abstraction levels. It supplies Welwyn Garden City. The Beane – shared with Barbara Follett is similarly stressed – normally dry north of Watton-at-Stone. It supplies water to Stevenage. The two rivers have very low levels of flow according to the Environment Agency. Their studies put the Mimram on satisfactorily meeting the flow requirements of the environment only 1% of the year and the Beane on 10%.
There are approximately 35 chalk rivers and major tributaries ranging from 20 to 90 kilometres in length in the UK. They are located in the South and the East England – from the Frome in Dorset to the Hull in Humberside. Of these 35 chalk rivers in the country, one of them, the Mimram, has a Site of Special Scientific Interest (or SSSI) which is located at Tewinbury, North East Hertfordshire.
The rivers of Hertfordshire, including our precious chalk rivers, are a refuge for our country’s wildlife and form an important amenity for the people who live in our heavily populated county. An Environment Agency report in December found that only 20 per cent. of the rivers and lakes of England and Wales are currently at “good status” and with the rivers in my constituency drying out in hot summers I am raising this issue before the House.
The key messages will be:
* urge Government to implement a plan for more ambitious targets to achieve good status for our rivers, including measures to reduce/amend water abstraction and cut pollution
* better water efficiency with the water industry to lower water use to 130 litres per person per day
* encourage residents to save water