Environment Agency restricts application to abstract more water

Environment Agency News Release


The Environment Agency has reduced the amount of water Thames Water can abstract from its Axford pumping station in the Kennet Valley by nearly one million cubic metres per year.

The decision was made following an application from the company to extend its existing licence variation for the pumping station, which abstracts water from the River Kennet to supply drinking water to local communities and Swindon.

Fiona Holmes, a technical water specialist for the Environment Agency, said: “Water has been taken from this source near the River Kennet for decades, but Natural England has said that part of the river, which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its characteristic chalk stream ecology, is ‘not in a favourable condition’.

“There are many factors that can combine to give this poor condition. However, we do know that abstractions can reduce river flow and, as a result, have a knock-on effect on the condition of the river, and its ecology.

“We have assessed Thames Water’s application carefully, balancing the company’s need for water against the needs of the River Kennet and its environment. Having taken these elements into consideration we have reduced the amount of water the company can abstract, both in terms of the daily and yearly allowance. The daily allowance is now just over 7,000 cubic metres per day less, and the yearly allowance is nearly one million cubic metres per year less than before.

“To be successful in our management of water resources, we must permit abstraction to the extent necessary to meet abstractors’ reasonable foreseeable needs while ensuring that the resource and its dependent ecosystems are properly safeguarded.

“We believe that reducing the amount of water Thames Water can abstract should help to increase flows in the River Kennet, and will play a part in the hard work taking place in the area by us, and other bodies, to improve the river for both people and the environment.”

The quantity of water abstracted from Axford is limited by a licence held by Thames Water. The licence is made up of two elements, a “base” amount, and an additional amount called a “variation”.

The base licence is for 13,100 cubic meters per day, and up to 3,410,000 cubic metres per year. This has not changed.

The previous variation on the licence, which was issued in 1998, allowed the company to abstract up to 20,500 cubic meters per day, and up to 5,000,000 cubic metres per year, subject to when flow in the River Kennet was greater than 90,000 cubic metres per day as measured at Knighton, near Ramsbury.

The new variation allows the company to abstract up to a total of 4,049,000 cubic metres per year until 2011. No additional daily amount was authorised by the variation so this reverts to the base licence quantity of 13,100 cubic metres per day.

For more information about our decision visit our website by clicking this link.