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24 October 22
Affinity Water will soon be consulting on its DRAFT Water Resources Management Plan on 14th November 2022. It is asking its customers and stakeholders to get involved and say how they would like the Company to plan for its water supplies in the short and longer terms with the challenges that an increasing population and climate change present.
The DRAFT Plan sets out the Company’s roadmap to provide a reliable, resilient, sustainable, efficient, and affordable water supply to its customers between 2025 and 2075. It highlights the challenges it will face and how it intends to maintain the balance between water supply and demand, while protecting our environment.
Affinity Water supplies 950 million litres of water every day, to a population of more than 3.8 million people in parts of Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, the London Boroughs of Harrow and Hillingdon and parts of the London Boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Enfield. It also supplies water to the Tendring peninsula in Essex and the Folkestone and Dover areas of Kent.
Ellie Powers, Affinity Water’s Head of Water Resources and Environment explained: “Affinity Water’s regions are home to around 10 per cent of the UK’s Chalk streams, a globally rare habitat. We know that 65% of the drinking water we supply to the public comes from the Chalk aquifer, the same aquifer that Chalk streams rely on for their flow. The publication of our Draft Plan is an opportunity for customers and stakeholders to have their say.
“We have reduced abstraction from Chalk stream catchments by 71 million litres per day since 1990 levels. We have plans to reduce abstraction by a further 27 million litres per day from Chalk stream catchments in our Central region by the end of the 2024/25 reporting year. Our Revitalising Chalk Rivers programme is also working to restore and enhance chalks streams.”
To explain more about the DRAFT Plan, Affinity Water has recorded a new podcast with Ilias Karapanos, a Senior Asset Manager at Affinity Water and a qualified hydrogeologist.
Ilias takes a walk by the River Cam in Cambridgeshire to talk about how the Company is monitoring river flows and groundwater levels, to highlight how the data they are collecting will enable them to find out more about the geology of Chalk streams and how they flow. He also welcomes those who want to contribute to this body of knowledge through Citizen Science projects.
Ilias begins the podcast by explaining why Affinity Water has not introduced a hosepipe ban this year while other water companies have.
He says: “Affinity Water does not have a hosepipe ban (TUB- Temporary Use Ban) at present because we are groundwater dominated, not surface water dominated. As this drought has evolved to date, it has impacted surface water systems more than groundwater systems. For 2022 we have decided not to put a hosepipe ban because groundwater levels are just below average for the time of year. This coming winter we need to have average or above average rainfall to take us out of the drought situation. The groundwater system and the Chalk aquifer where we get our water supplies from, mainly responds to winter rainfall. It is heavily reliant on the rainfall over the next few months, up to March 2023 when the recharge window typically closes. If we do see significant recharge between now and then, we will start spring and summer 2023 from a higher groundwater level position. If we don’t, then we are likely to introduce restrictions next year at some point.”
Moving on to discuss the DRAFT WRMP Ilias says Affinity Water plan to progress with a number of Strategic Resource Options (SROs), and that customers too can play their part by reducing their demand for water: “We need to understand the groundwater systems a lot more.. The aquifer has its own flow patterns. We need a lot more science and that is what we are doing at Affinity Water to understand how aquifers work, when and how abstraction impacts are manifested and how we can use groundwater resources in an environmentally friendly way.”
He went on to explain how staff at the Company were committed to the environment and how learning more about river flows was important to them. “We are putting a lot of effort into this. I am a hydrogeologist, it is all about understanding how water moves through the ground, and how much water that we abstract from the boreholes will make its way into the river and under what conditions. The Chalk aquifer is complicated, it is a layered aquifer rather than a bucket as we thought previously.”
He ended by saying Citizen Scientists were helping us to understand more: “Everybody needs to play their part in this. We only abstract groundwater to put into supply so if people use less water, we will abstract less water from the ground. This is not a direct one to one relationship, but if we all do what we can to reduce our water consumption, we can leave more water in the environment and some of this will help support river flows.
“We welcome every piece of information, every piece of knowledge, and we work with Citizen Science groups who are interested in contributing to science, whether it is taking river photos, measuring flows, ecological sampling and so on. It will complement our data and that of others so we can put the picture together as best we can and understand what is going on.”
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