Within the Kennet catchment there are over-abstraction issues which leave the river without enough water to support a healthy ecosystem.
For over 20 years there has been local concern that flows in the Upper Kennet above Marlborough have been affected by over-abstraction. There have been several abstraction studies in the catchment driven by the Habitats Directive (HD), the Restoring Sustainable Abstraction Programme (RSA), and the production of the Kennet and Pang Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy (CAMS).
Axford and the upper Kennet
A breakthrough came in 2014 when the Environment Agency issued a notice reducing the permitted abstraction from Axford and revoking the abstraction licence on the little River Og. Thames Water has now built a new pipeline, which provides an alternative water source for Swindon when river levels in the Kennet are low. When flow measured at the Knighton Gauging Station drops below 100 M/l d, abstraction at Axford must be reduced. As part of the same work, the abstraction point on the River Og is now only used in emergencies. These abstraction reductions began in 2017 and are designed to improve flows below Axford to support ‘good ecological status’.
The West Berkshire Groundwater Scheme (an Environment Agency responsibility) supplies water to the Letcombe Brook and provides mitigation for the impacts of the Enborne wellfield under very dry conditions.
An investigation into the impacts of abstraction from the Upper Kennet boreholes, owned by Thames Water and Wessex Water will be included in the Water Industry National Environment Programme in the 2020 AMP period.
The Catchment Partnership will continue to work on projects and programmes to reduce water demand and raise awareness of the value of water.
Action for the River Kennet and Thames WAter will continue their successful ‘Water Matters’ programme of work with schools, which teaches students about the value of water for wildlife and helps them to use water wisely at home and in school.