It may be raining but the sight of hundreds of tiny dead fish on a dried up river bed is now greeting visitors to the River Kennet, one of England’s precious chalk streams.
They resemble the fallen autumn leaves at first, but as you look closer you see that hundreds of minnows, sticklebacks and young trout are littering what used to be the bed of the river, upstream of Marlborough.
ARK (Action River Kennet) revealed that the continued combination of low rainfall and ongoing water abstraction has left river levels dropping, leaving hundreds of fish stranded. In the past 12 months, 10 of them have had below average rainfall.
They resemble the fallen autumn leaves at first, but as you look closer you see that hundreds of minnows, sticklebacks and young trout are littering what used to be the bed of the river
Yet every day Thames Water abstract 20 million litres of water from the same aquifer which feeds the Kennet – and for the direct benefit of the residents of Marlborough and its villages.
Fish in ponds and lakes which used to be connected to the river are suffering too, ARK director Charlotte Hitchmough told Marlborough News Online.
Ponds which rely on a flow from the river to keep them topped up have become so low and lacking in oxygen that fish are dying.
The fish death toll in the lakes in the grounds of Marlborough College has reached over 100, and the problem is replicated along the river.
“This week I have seen people trying to top up the river levels using hose pipes,” warned Charlotte. “This does not help. The water which comes out of our taps, comes from the same underground aquifer which feeds the river.”
“So in the longer term it will just slow down the river’s recovery, and tap water has been treated with chlorine, which is poisonous to fish.”
And she added: “Everyone can help to make a difference by using less water. This will leave more in the aquifer to feed the river. Just log on to www.riverkennet.org – and the Marlborough News Online website — to find out how you can get free water saving gadgets from Thames Water.”
Information about Action for the River Kennet is available at www.riverkennet.org or call Charlotte Hitchmough on 01672 513672.