After 20 years of campaigning, Action for the River Kennet (ARK) is finally celebrating an announcement by the Environment Agency that water abstraction from the rare chalk stream to supply homes in Swindon is to be reduced.
The promised move to protect the Kennet will not happen until 2017 – one year later than originally planned – but it has nevertheless delighted ARK members.
The Environment Agency, in agreement with Thames Water, will now reduce abstraction from the Axford pumping station and end all water abstraction from the River Og.
“It’s great news,” ARK director Charlotte Hitchmough told Marlborough News Online. “It seems we have been on the cusp of this actually happening for quite a few years now, and to actually see the Environment Agency announcement was a great relief.
“Until now ARK has objected to every one of the licence renewals relating to water abstraction at Axford, but this is one that we can celebrate. The change to the licence will mean more flow in the river during dry summer months.
It will also mean that the River Og flows for more of the year. Both rivers will be healthier as a result.”
She added: “The timescale has slipped a bit, but after over 20 years of campaigning we are just very pleased that the wheels are finally are in motion to help the river.”
The new programme is aimed at restoring sustainable abstraction from the Kennet – a recognised Site of Scientific Interest — with reductions starting from April 2017.
Agreement between the Environment Agency and Thames Water to leave more water in the Kennet was agreed in last year and was due to come into effect next year. But a series of delays now means it will not happen until 2017.