A third of England’s rivers could face an uncertain future if the government pushes ahead with new legislation warned WWF.
The Government’s Water Bill was meant to be an opportunity to tackle the problem of over abstraction, where more water is taken from the rivers for businesses and public supply than the river can support, meaning water levels cannot support native wildlife such as the Water Vole or the Kingfisher. Instead the government is using it as a means to increase further competition into a sector which requires wholesale reform, instead of tinkering round the edges.
Though WWF agrees the bill may result in increased competition between water companies which could drive down costs in the short term, in the longer term WWF believes the outcome of the bill will cause serious damage to the environment that will cost the country even more to fix. The main problem is one the government has dropped from the Bill, which is that the licences granted in the 1950s that allow too much water to be taken out.
WWF believes that the Water Bill will encourage abstractors to ‘max out’ licences causing further environmental damage to our rivers and streams, which is why the organisation is calling for the Water Bill to include powers to reform this archaic system.
Dr. Rose O’Neill, WWF’s freshwater expert said; “The Government needs to stop treading water on this issue and ensure sure the Water Bill contains sufficient protection for our precious rivers that are the lifeblood of our green and pleasant land. Introducing incentives to take out more water without introducing long-promised reforms to the abstraction licensing system will result in increased pressure on rivers and wildlife.
“The Government must put protecting England’s natural heritage at the heart of its Water Bill.”
The UK has the majority of the world’s chalk streams, rivers that inspired literary works such as Three Men in a Boat and the Wind in the Willows as well as the landscapes painted by Turner
The cool, crystal-clear water, which make the chalk streams the perfect habitat for wildlife, is also attractive to water companies who appreciate the naturally pure filtered water. WWF wants to see our natural heritage protected.