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12 May 21

Sir Charles Walker MP, says we need to do more to

Sir Charles Walker, the Conservative MP for Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, is Chair of the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Chalk Streams. A keen fisherman Sir Charles formed the group with fellow Hertfordshire MP Oliver Heald, the MP for North East Hertfordshire, and it now has around 40 active members from across all parties and from in the House of Lords too.

In this exclusive podcast for Affinity Water Sir Charles is supportive of its recently launched campaign and says: “Affinity Water has the protection of the environment in its DNA”.

He praises those he has worked with in the company over the years saying it was working at a “frantic pace” to bring about change. Sir Charles also recommends that water companies and the economic regulator Ofwat, should work closer together to focus more widely on environmental issues and how this is reflected in the price of water.

He expanded on this issue: “We need to engage Ofwat more in concerns about the environment not just on the price of water. It needs to focus more on the environmental costs of our water when it comes out of a stream, as it does in our area, rather than from a reservoir.”

He continued: “People think water comes out of a reservoir, but often that is not the case. In Hertfordshire most of our water is abstracted from chalk aquifers and that in turn impacts on the poor water flows in our chalk rivers and streams.”

Sir Charles recalled the time when as a child he used to fish in the River Test at Kimbridge. in Hampshire, and said when he returned as an adult 30 years later, he had been “disappointed to see a once gurgling carrier stream now entering the main river as just a sad looking trickle.”

In the autumn of 2019 Affinity Water was ahead of the game when it took the decision to turn off abstraction from a chalk stream when it stopped abstracting water from an aquifer on the River Chess, a move Sir Charles said showed “leadership”.

He said: “I’m impressed with the leadership role Affinity Water is taking on these campaigns on the environment to save water such as and we need to realise that more generally water companies are not the enemy. We need a joined-up approach to looking after our rivers and streams and Ofwat should take a leading role in this and support water companies in their environmental objectives”.

He explained that as the Covid19 lockdowns had allowed us all more time to walk by our local rivers and streams we often didn’t appreciate what a poor state they were in: “Most people walking by a river would say isn’t this beautiful isn’t this water lovely. But actually, if you know rivers and the ecology of rivers, you may see a low flow where there is not the same amount of weed and they look very barren. Just because a river has water in it doesn’t mean that it is healthy. It has to have the right amount of water in it, and you need good quality water and high flows to make sure you have a vibrant and flourishing eco-system.”

Sir Charles said we all needed to do more to save water and he personally recommended - “a bath can serve two”. He explained that some dual flush toilets were not fit for purpose and that homeowners needed to look out for leaks and to do all they can to #savewater including installing water butts in their gardens.

He said the focus on homeowners use of water also needed to be balanced against the need to build more reservoirs in England particularly in the SE where the population is increasing, and many more new homes are needed. He said he was not a supporter of the “stick” approach to individual water use target but did support the better labelling of white goods for water use such as dishwashers and washing machines.

“Ultimately we need more reservoirs,” he said.

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