As readers will know, I am a strong supporter of WWF’s campaign to improve the quality of our rivers. NE Herts constituency has seven chalk streams including the Beane and the Mimram which are featured in the WWF literature. Both have seen very low levels and periods of dryness leading to loss of flora and fauna. Ministers and Shadow Ministers have visited our rivers and I initiated a debate and motion in the House of Commons calling for action. Over 100 MPs supported me.
I am pleased to see that the Water White Paper published in December, seeks to address the over-abstraction of rivers. It also provides guidance for water companies so that they can make long term plans for water abstraction whilst working on reducing demand too. Interestingly, the White Paper indicates that government will make payments to reduce historically high water bills in the South West of England. Equally the Paper encourages water companies to introduce social tariffs for vulnerable customers too.
This White Paper and the one published earlier on in 2011 are the precursors to a Water Bill which is due to be released for scrutiny this year. Given my interest in the protection of Hertfordshire’s chalk streams, I particularly welcome the proposals in both White Papers which address the issue of over-abstracted rivers. This is some good news at last.