Following three consecutive dry years across much of Britain, river levels and groundwater supplies are now in such a depleted state in the water-stressed South East that wildlife organisations and river groups have published a call for the Government and Water Companies to introduce hosepipe bans and other water restrictions immediately to avert fish kills and longer term environmental damage. Their dossier ‘Chalk Streams in Crisis’ and includes case studies from the rivers Lea, Chess, Ver, Wandle, Hogsmill, Darent and Cray – all South East chalk rivers suffering from over abstraction and damaging low flows.
The Environment Agency’s April 2019 Monthly Water Situation Report shows the parlous state of many rivers in the region with Kent’s River Darent running at 55 per cent of its long-term average flow. In Hertfordshire, the Ver is at 45 per cent and the Upper Lea at 37 per cent. The figures for May will be even worse given the lack of recent rainfall.
In Cambridgeshire, the monthly mean flow on the River Cam was the lowest April flow since records began in 1949.
60% of Environment Agency indicator sites in their April 2019 report describe chalk groundwater levels (across England) as below normal or notably low. The water is simply not down there to recharge the rivers.