Water firms dismiss 'excessive abstraction' claims

24-08-2006

Southern Water has dismissed claims that 'excessive abstraction' from the water table has damaged the environment.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England and the RSPB both claim that taking water from the chalk aquifer blocks in the south-east of England is having a detrimental effect on the environment.

At present, water is pumped from the aquifer via boreholes or rivers to replenish reservoirs.

In January, the firm obtained a drought permit to pump water from the Medway River into the Bewl Reservoir, only one third full at the time. Critics said the riverflow was lower than the 275 million gallons a day flow rate set by the Environment Agency.

Graham Warren, chairman of the environment committee at Campaign to Protect Rural England’s regional offices in Kent, described the current rate of abstraction as "unsustainable".

Criticising the drought permit application as a "panic measure" from a water firm responding to its perceived "failure" to develop an effective long-term strategy, Mr Warren said the situation was critical.

Ian Barker, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, also expressed his concern over the levels of water abstraction.

However, Meyrick Gough, water planning and strategy manager for Southern Water, told the BBC that the extraction was legal and licensed by the Environment Agency.

Mr Gough's comments were echoed by Tony Wray, managing director of Severn Trent Water, who rejected claims that water firm had a "carte blanch" to take water from rivers.

"It is strictly governed; strictly managed; and we monitor and measure it very, very carefully," he said.



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