Campaigners say the South East’s rivers are reaching “crisis point” and have called for an immediate hosepipe ban.
The Environment Agency’s chief executive Sir James Bevan has been told by several groups that dwindling rivers are risking wildlife after a long, hot summer last year and the dry winter that followed.
Water companies should be forced to implement “restrictions and temporary use bans” now rather than wait for further damage to be done, campaigners say.
But an Environment Agency spokesman said a hosepipe ban would be premature because the problem is not at a “critical level”.
He added that plans are in place if the dry weather continues.
Twelve wildlife, conservation and angling groups claimed all South East rivers are “below or severely below” normal levels.
They pointed to a record low in the Cam in Cambridge and a 55% drop in Hertfordshire’s Beane since 2013.
In a letter to Sir James, they wrote: “Surely it makes more sense to prepare the public for potential shortages, in order to encourage demand reductions, rather than to encourage complacency.”
Water companies told Sir James on Tuesday that they might need to “take more water than usual” from rivers and boreholes, but were not expecting to implement a hosepipe ban this summer.
The EA said it expects water companies to introduce hosepipe bans before applying for drought permits, which enable them to remove water from the environment.
The spokesman said applying for a permit before tapping local resources is an expected protocol, rather than a mandatory requirement.
He added: “There is enough water for all if water resources are managed properly, and we have agreed with water companies to sustain our efforts to ensure people and the environment continue to get the water they need.”
The Angling Trust, one of the groups that wrote to Sir James, said trout, dace, chub and roach were most at risk from low water levels, while there were also long-term threats to kingfishers, grebes and other fish-eating birds.
The trust’s chief policy adviser, Martin Salter said: “Without urgent action now to reduce water use, many of our streams will dry up and die.”
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, and the Wild Trout Trust were among the groups who wrote to Sir James.
Source: Sky News, 7th June 2019