Talk given at 2019AGM
Water Abstraction – a privilege not a right?
Stephen Tomkins, speaking at the November AGM of the WIlbraham River Protection Society, warned that the pressure on our local rivers and aquifers was becoming unsustainable and that issues of over abstraction for such things as domestic water had to be urgently addressed. The problem was being exacerbated by ever increasing periods of low rain fall, although that was not the whole problem – life style pressures played a big part. He believes that water abstraction should be regarded as a privilege and not a ‘right’ as we are already beyond our water resource limits given the population growth that is projected and is now underway.
Northern Europe is the global stronghold of chalk streams and 85% of them are in Southern England. Our water comes from the chalk hills near Cambridge and the chalk streams that spring from them are home to very precious flora and fauna. We will lose them if we are not very careful. The Wilbraham River is one of them.
Water companies, Stephen believes, could play a big part in preserving the health and volume of local water supplies by reducing leakage in their mains water distribution. Locally this equates to 14 million litres a day. Relative to its worth, water is perhaps underpriced currently. Furthermore, local authorities could encourage the use of ‘grey water’ recycling for cleaning and flushing lavatories such as employed on the North West Cambridge Eddington development. Here Cambridge Water provides mains supply and Cambridge University provides the grey water. Drastic changes to new housing infrastructure regulations would be required for such efficiencies to be emulated on a much grander scale. However, taking the North Cambridge Northstowe housing project as an example, such progressive ideas are not popular with developers who claim that the fitting of water recycling and solar panels to properties will prevent them from making any money.
Other measures would also help including building more reservoirs and creating more water meadows and wetlands, while also recognising the reality of climate change in all future planning and development.
Stephen Tomkins was formerly Director of Studies for Biological Sciences & Head of the Science Faculty at Homerton College & Lecturer in Biological Education, University of Cambridge.
Click on the link below below to read the River Cam Manifesto
Learn More about Your River
Anyone interested in the history and geology of The Wilbraham River will be interested in the late Dr Desmond Hawkins’ book – “The Drainage of Wilbraham, Fulbourn and Teversham Fens.”
Copies are obtainable through WRPS Secretary, Rebecca Lomas – email@example.com. Tel: 07718 899 471. £5:00 a copy
About Wilbraham River
Wilbraham River rises at The Temple Spring in Great Wilbraham, flowing under the bridge on Wilbraham Road, up onto the common, across Hawk Mill Farm continuing on to Quy, Anglesey Abbey and beyond. Its banks provide delightful riverside walks for the enjoyment of local people. Two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) abut the river – Great Wilbraham Common and Wilbraham Fen. Part of the river is also a County Wildlife Site.
Survey of the Wilbraham River
A section of the Wilbraham River from its source at Temple Springs, downstream to where it crosses the A1303, was surveyed using the National Rivers Authority (NRA) standard River Corridor Survey methods. Staff and volunteers from The Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust, on behalf of the Wilbraham River Protection Society (WRPS), carried out the survey. Click here to access the survey.
If you are interested in the river and would like to become a “Friend” of the Wilbraham River Protection Society (WRPS) please contact our Secretary, Rebecca Lomas on 01223 811 189 or firstname.lastname@example.org with contact details
Click on the links below for articles about the activities and issues the WRPS tries to address, which originally appeared in The Wilbrahams’ Warbler: