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Water matters

Friday, 19 August 2011 15:59

The ford at Shilton The ford at Shilton Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

It is said that the south east of England has less water per head available than countries such as Sudan. This puts a premium on conserving every drop we have in the most sensible way possible, including reducing use and waste, and recycling wherever feasible.

Rivers, streams flood plains, water meadows, reservoirs, wetland habitats, ground water - it seems like we have it all! But with an ever-expanding population and more homes – especially here in the south east - the demand for water may outstrip supply.

Small bunds, dikes and ditches can help reduce run off in winter and store water for summer shortages. All this can be achieved without a major disruption to the existing landscape (unlike the proposed massive reservoir near Abingdon), and help maintain resilience in the face of increasingly uncertain weather patterns. We are also interested in the concept of transferring water across existing water company boundaries. Generally we think a more holistic view of water resources is required.

Flooding can be as equally worrying as concern over serious drought, though wildlife can probably adapt to it better. The answer lies in slowing run off across the catchment, and in particular avoiding new building developments in the floodplain. Rivers should be allowed to work in their natural courses without artificial channelling and scouring, which merely passes the problem further downstream. Wetland habitats and water meadows are what are needed, not acres of concrete and unfortunate householders!

We support the Environment Agency’s efforts to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive, which aims at an improvement in the ecological and chemical quality of all surface and ground water bodies. In the case of the upper Thames and its tributaries much still needs to be done to achieve a ‘good’ rating.

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