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Notes from Three Rivers Environmental Forum - 24th October 2012

posted 26 Nov 2012, 11:37 by Tomo
Committee Member Georgia recently attended the Three Rivers Environmental Forum on the 24th October, 2012 and made the following personal notes about the meeting.

Present
Chairman: Councillor Chris Lloyd
Councillors: Tony Barton, Paua Hiscocks, Barbara Lamb, Brian Norman, Len Tippen.
Representatives from: Watford Friends of the Earth, Southwest Herts Cycling group, Rickmansworth residents Ass. Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, Campaign for protection of rural England, Chorleywood Residents Ass. & Eastbury Residents Ass.   

2 Guest Speakers
  • Allen Beechey from Chilterns Chalk Streams Project
  • Ted Casey from Affinity Water.

Allen Beechey - Chilterns Chalk Streams Project

Colne Catchment Plan
Allen explained that in March 2011 Defra (Dept.for environment, food & Rural affairs) announced a new catchment based approach to river basin management. The aim of which is to approach & explore better ways to work closely with people & organisations to help achieve more for our environment. This is to be a living plan.

The Colne Catchment area is approx. 1018 Km2 with 6 chalk rivers & their tributaries, canals,  lakes, ponds and  large groundwater resources. It stretches from East of St Albans to Staines & West London where it flows into the River Thames. The Northern & Western parts lay within the Chilterns, an area characterised by chalk streams & rural landscapes, approximately half of the area within the catchment area is one of Outstanding Beauty.
Waterbodies within the Colne Catchment (rivers/streams/lakes & groundwaters) are affected by a number of issues:
  • Effects from non-native invasive species
  • unsustainable water abstraction
  • man-made modifications to its river channels & diffuse pollution, (many scattered sources of pollution which combined, have a significant impact) 
Although Groundwork South & the Chiltern Chalk Stream Project are jointly hosting the catchment based approach, it can only address these issues by bringing stakeholders from all sectors together and tackle them collectively including businesses, government, charities and local people.        
Whilst the key motivation is to improve the ecological status of the catchment, the aim is help local communities to enjoy and take pride in their local environment.

A pilot scheme was announced in which 25 pilot catchments were selected to trial different approaches to catchment working and provide plans by December 2012, which would then be used to roll out nationally. The Colne catchment work began in April 2012, it is in comparison one of the largest areas with a population of approximately 1 million living within the catchment. One major factor is the demand for water! The developed Catchment Plan will help shape the second round of River Basin Planning which will begin in 2013, and ultimately help the water environment of the Colne Catchment reach Water Framework Directive objectives by 2027.

First step was to set up a Holding Group including a small number of organisations with a good knowledge of the entire patch, a workshop in April was held for stakeholders with an interest in the catchment. 21 organisations were represented such as the Environment Agency, water companies’ local authorities, river groups, wildlife trusts, local charities. 6 shared outcomes for the catchment were identified and a steering group agreed made up of some members of the Holding Group.  

Local workshops continue and task groups have been set up to deliver the identified outcomes.

Some rivers in the Chilterns are still completely dry and in a critical situation, before the heavy rainfall in April & June of this year 60% of the total length of chalk stream was dry, had it not been for the rainfall the drought would have been the most severe on record.

There is a shortage of fish in the River Chess this is due to a number of issues: 
  • Poor habitat and low flow, rivers becoming shorter due to drying upper sections, 
  • low flows caused by over abstraction and  
  • drought have caused food for fish to crash. 
  • Less flow has caused silt to smother spawning gravels and mills/weirs prevent fish from moving further upstream to find suitable habitat to spawn.
It is felt that a fundamental change at Government level is needed and although the Governments White paper represents their vision for future water resource management, it is strong on some issues but it needs to set out a robust strategy to address them. There seems to be a lack of consideration for the water environment in the area and Defra have recently approached Herts County Council requesting they do something to address the demand for water. Suggesting that all new builds have rainwater collection facilities and installation of grey water recycling should be mandatory.

The Chairman thanked Allen for his informative & interesting presentation. 
  
Ted Casey from Affinity Water

Mr Casey is employed by Affinity Water Education department to teach children & young adults’ in schools awareness about the seriousness of the water shortage and how by making subtle changes we can all reduce the amount of water we use. In the classroom he gives the children an insight of how water gets from source to the tap; he showed us various activities he uses to make the class fun, interesting and relevant to all age groups. Pupils gain a better understanding of how precious water is as a resource.

People need to be re-educated into making fundamental changes to their life-styles to reduce water usage, reducing the time a person spends in the shower, for example 10 minutes under a power shower uses 150 litres of water!!!  A teenager on average spends 18 minutes in the shower, turning off the tap while cleaning your teeth, fix dripping taps, use water efficient appliances and have a water meter installed to name but a few. In addition he has written to Head Teachers indicating how much water the school used and how the pupils and staff can reduce usage. 

Affinity water is seen as the most proactive water company in the country and it extracts water from underground aquifers unlike other companies which extracts it from reservoirs or rivers. However due to lack of rainfall during the last two winters the source had not been replenished after summer demand and this led to the company introducing a hosepipe ban. He did acknowledge that his company needs to be more proactive in reducing leaks, as 17% of water is loss due to this. Willow and Oak trees and Forsythia bushes were amongst the most destructive plants to destroy water pipes.

There is definite need to reduce water usage and education is the key, government needs to introduce compulsory metering and ensure water efficiency education to be part of the National curriculum.

Mr Casey was then thanked by the Chairman for his presentation.

There followed a report by the Biodiversity projects Officer, 
A letter had been received regarding the cutting of wildflowers on the verges and whether the decline of some species had any effect on insects, the officer said that there were on-going studies regarding both insects and bees by Plantlife. 

Members received a report which updated them on events & issues.

Members exchanged information:
Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, concerned about threat to green belt at Croxley Green, in the south-east housing was in high demand than land supply.

Watford Friends of the Earth & Friends of Croxley Common, advised there would be a screening  about bees 3rd December, 7.30pm at The Quaker House, Church Road, Watford. Tickets free - www.beesfilm.eventbrite.co.uk

A suggestion to the council for more lawned areas to be converted to meadows of wild flowers, to help the bee population, the council agreed if the location was right.

Spokes      
HCC is considering potential cycle routes, a suggestion that a link between Chorleywood, Mill End & Rickmansworth town centre would be favourable.

Next meeting Tuesday 26th March, 2013

Meeting closed.

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