Action campaign launched to restore River Cam levels and carry out improvement work
- Credit: Richard Pavitt
A group worried about the River Cam has launched an action campaign to press for its restoration and to carry out hands-on improvement work.
Richard Pavitt of Cam Upper Reaches Action Team (CURAT) said he had worried about the river being just a few inches deep last summer.
He and Great Chesterford resident Colin Day, whose home is near the river, met a University of Cambridge expert, and Affinity Water.
Cllr Pavitt said there is a “perfect storm” of increasing water demand and unpredictable rainfall for the chalk aquifer - the main source of household water in Uttlesford and Cambridgeshire.
“We only just avoided having a hose pipe ban last summer in Uttlesford, they were in days of calling for a ban.
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“It’s the wrong kind of rainfall. What we need for the aquifer is steady rainfall.”
The Cam is a designated Chalk stream. Water from the Chalk aquifer normally supports a diverse range of aquatic life and plants. Poor flow of the Cam means pollutants from fields and roads are not washed away speedily.
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Colin Day, chair of CURAT who lives next to the Cam at Great Chesterford, said he was watching the Cam die.
“During the summer, the river is dry from it source near Widdington to the sewage recycling outflow at Newport. Only then does it gain a flow and when it gets really low the river is topped up from boreholes in the aquifer. But this is completely unsustainable.
“If we do nothing we will lose this early stretch of the Cam.”
Affinity Water said a temporary use ban was unnecessary as exceptionally wet weather over the autumn and winter of 2019/20 helped groundwater recover.
“The River Cam did not recover to the same extent as other areas over last winter, due to lack of rainfall locally, which is why we have been working to improve flows by pumping water from the aquifer into the river.
“We want to help protect the environment, such as our region’s globally rare chalk streams and improve the resilience of our water supplies to droughts and other challenges that climate change may bring.”
They have a long term Water Resources Plan including potential future scenarios such as investigating the need for a new reservoir, internal water transfers and water imports.
CURAT’s leaflet with a centrefold poster designed by Saffron Walden illustrator Michelle Thompson has been delivered to every household along the river covering Newport to Duxford. Learn more at curat.org.uk