Hertfordshire is located in one of the driest regions of the country. We are also amongst the highest water users nationally. Much of our water comes from a chalk aquifer, which also feeds the county’s rivers and streams.
Where there is a high water demand combined with low rainfall (as has occurred in Hertfordshire recently), this can cause a lower rate of recharge than needed to keep the aquifer at a sustainable level. Consequently, this can result in restrictions on our water use (such as hosepipe bans) as well as impacting local wildlife and habitats.
Therefore it is important that we all think about how we could use less water, whether at home or work, to help preserve the county’s water resources both now and for the future.
Hertfordshire County Council is currently working with local partners to help address this issue.
Hertfordshire Water Summit
This one-day conference for key stakeholders took place on 14 March 2013 at the Fielder Centre in Hatfield. Hosted by Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), it explored the availability of water resources in Hertfordshire and future long term water security.
Hertfordshire has one of the highest water usage rates in the country. Water supply issues have been made worse by recent dry winters which have failed to provide adequate recharge for the county’s chalk aquifer (the main source of water for the majority of users within Hertfordshire).
These pressures can cause a range of problems such as the hosepipe ban for Affinity customers last year, which affected both businesses and households.
We also risk water becoming a constraint on growth as it is likely that the current supply cannot sustain greater demand.
Water resource pressures also have significant environmental impacts. Hertfordshire is home to internationally-rare chalk streams and associated habitats. High levels of abstraction have led to many of these water bodies experiencing low flows or running completely dry.
This conference provided a platform for all key sectors within Hertfordshire to learn more about the shortage of water resources facing the county. No single organisation or agency can deliver the necessary solutions and mechanisms to tackle the shortage of water in Hertfordshire. It requires public, private and third sector organisations to work together to address the issues related to our high levels of water consumption.
The event informed delegates of the key issues related to water resource management in Hertfordshire and secured sign-up to actions to tackle the county’s water resource pressures.
The Water Summit covered three main themes
- Water resource planning – 2015 will see the next national Water Resource Planning Round at which investment in water resources and pricing structures will be agreed between the water companies and Ofwat. HCC wants to encourage all interested stakeholders to contribute to consultations on this. Additionally, the Summit covered the role of planning authorities and other stakeholders in balancing supply and demand as part of the development process.
- Water demand management – many organisations in the county have tried to encourage behaviour change related to water consumption. Despite this, water usage levels remain persistently high. The Summit explored new approaches to tackling this.
- The environmental value of water – including the impact of high abstraction levels on our internationally rare chalk streams. The Summit included discussions of how we raise awareness of these issues amongst key decision makers in the county.
At the bottom of the page is a summary of the actions that HCC is taking now as part of our work on water resource management, titled 'Summary of Existing Water Resources Projects.'
As part of our ongoing work towards a wider response, we will be publishing an action plan in due course. We will be consulting with our partners on what actions we can take as well as considering the wider implications the response will have.
Attendance at the Water Summit was by invitation only. All leaders of key stakeholder organisations in Hertfordshire were invited.
Rivers play an important role in Hertfordshire’s landscape. They are important as habitat for wildlife, are a source of public water supply and provide opportunities for recreational activities.
The county council’s Countryside Management Service (CMS) works with local communities to enhance Hertfordshire’s environment. The CMS provides advice to landowners with land adjacent to rivers and raises awareness of the importance of rivers and their wildlife.
Places to visit, walking and riding routes near to Hertfordshire’s rivers are available, many of which are promoted through leaflets available on the CMS website.
The Environment Agency is responsible for investigating environmental incidents relating to rivers such as river pollution and damage to river banks. To report an incident please see the link below.
For further information on river conservation and how you can get involved with looking after your local river, please see the links below.
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