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What is the driver of the abstraction reduction programme and what are the benefits?

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the key driver of our abstraction reduction programme. The WFD states that all rivers are required to achieve good ecological status by 2027, or good ecological potential if designated as heavily modified or artificial.

Within this programme, along with our ambitious river restoration and catchment management programmes, we aim to:

  • Leave more water in the environment
  • Re-introduce natural processes to the chalk streams in our supply regions which support a diverse range of habitats.
  • Understand the nature of each of our drinking water catchments; how the land is being managed, what the likely risks to water quality are and what opportunities there are to mitigate any existing issues.

What have we committed to deliver?

We’ve committed to reducing the volume of water we take from the environment by 36.31 million litres per day (Ml/d) by December 2024. The 6.38 Ml/d abstraction reduction in the Chess catchment was implemented on a voluntary basis in September 2020 and resulted in the full cessation of abstraction in the upper catchment. We'll reduce the amount of groundwater we abstract from an additional six catchments by December 2024.

River Catchment Average Reduction (Ml/d) Implementation Date Community Area
Upper Chess 6.38 September 2020 Misbourne
Ver 9.01 December 2024 Colne
Misbourne 2 December 2024 Misbourne
Mimram 5.7 December 2024 Lee
Upper Lea 10.2 December 2024 Lee
Cam 0.42 December 2024 Stort
Brett 2.6 December 2024 Brett
Total 36.31

Map of Affinity Water supply area

How will security of supply be maintained?

To ensure we can maintain the security of the water supply when the abstraction reductions are implemented, we're making significant progress in the delivery of new assets and network modifications. This will allow us to condition the water where it's needed and transfer it from other areas to where it's needed. We've also implemented a range of projects and initiatives to support customers to reduce their personal use of water (per capita consumption) and to reduce leakage from our pipe network.


We have an industry-leading environmental monitoring network in place, which covers all areas of the water environment, such as:

  • Groundwater levels
  • Surface water levels (river and lake levels)
  • Ecology (macroinvertebrates and macrophytes)
  • Spot flow gauging (river flows)
  • Rainfall (rain gauges)

Much of this monitoring network was established in 2014, with some starting as early as 2010. The network has significantly grown since then, and we'll continue to expand it through to 2025 and beyond. We collect, analyse and interpret this data to help us assess the response of the groundwater abstraction reductions to our river catchments.

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