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Hertfordshire AL10 9EZ
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You are here : At Home > Sustainability > River restoration > River Ivel
The River Ivel is a chalk stream which flows north through Bedfordshire to join the River Ouse at Tempsford. Chalk streams are globally rare habitats. Of the 260 chalk streams in the world, 224 of them are in England and 10% of those are located within our supply area.
Chalk streams are rivers that receive baseflow from underneath, from the underground chalk aquifer (water bearing rock). As the water bubbling up through the riverbed has been naturally filtered by the chalk, it is often described as being ‘gin clear’ and is full of dissolved minerals that support many species of plants and animals.
Over the centuries, chalk streams have been altered for many reasons including: moving them from the lowest point on the landscape to higher up to work with field boundaries or create a bigger area for agriculture, being straightened to act as mill races for industry, or relocated for housing development. These changes mean that the rivers are less resilient to extreme climatic conditions such as flood and drought, as they no longer operate in a natural way.
The course of the River Ivel has been heavily modified along its length, and the wetland area around the springs and the headwaters of the river are an example of this. For around 100 years, up until the 1940s, a large part of the site was used as commercial watercress beds, extending across much of the area adjacent to the river channel. The river channel is largely straight and wide which is not the natural characteristics of a chalk stream headwater which should be narrow and meandering.
Left: Seasonal Wetland Enhancement Area, Right: River Ivel at Ivel Springs Nature Reserve
The options appraisal identified that the most environmentally effective option would be a combination of river support from a groundwater borehole and river restoration. This proposal is endorsed by the Environment Agency and Affinity Water are working to:
For more information about this project, please contact email@example.com.
We have been working on the detailed design for the seasonal wetland, to date we have:
The existing surface water outfall and the pond it flows into will remain in place. This pond will feed into a sedimentation pool, the purpose of this pool is to hold surface water which will allow any material to drop to the bottom therefore, the water entering the next pool will be of better water quality. There are two more pools which the water will flow into; filtering the water before it enters the River Ivel. The pools will be planted with marginal plants (plants that grow around pond edges) and reeds. The seasonal wetland pools will be surrounded by the existing wet woodland areas which is a rare and valuable habitat.
View our design and stakeholder feedback below:
We have been working on a detailed design for the river restoration. During this phase we have:
View our design maps below:
We are still working to develop the designs for the river support (augmentation) infrastructure. To date we have:
We have been monitoring the River Ivel’s headwaters since 2015 to understand any impacts of our local public water supply groundwater abstraction.
The monitoring and investigation work was included in our AMP6 Water Industry National Environment Programme (2015 to 2020) programme of works, with the aim of assessing the impact of groundwater abstraction against Water Framework Directive (WFD) requirements.
Taking the above findings into account, we considered numerous different options that could help improve the resilience of the River Ivel at Ivel Springs Nature Reserve.
As the name Ivel Springs Nature Reserve suggests, springs found on site are the source of the River Ivel. Springs occur where the groundwater moves through cracks and tunnels in the chalk and flows out at the surface. The location of a spring depends on the features in the geology, the groundwater level, and the existing surface level. Springs often move up and down the landscape, depending on the level of the groundwater which naturally changes seasonally.
The flow from a spring at one location may increase following rainfall as more groundwater bursts out at the surface. It can also stop flowing completely during a lack of rain as the groundwater no longer meets the surface at this location.
Groundwater levels fluctuate seasonally, typically reaching the highest level in spring following rainfall over the autumn and winter period which recharges the aquifer. Groundwater levels typically reach the lowest level in late summer, as during the summer months when temperatures are higher evaporation and uptake of water by plants reduces the amount of rainfall that can soak into the ground and recharge the aquifer.
Groundwater abstraction for public water supply or irrigation can also impact on a spring’s flow due to the localised dip in groundwater levels.