Most of Hampshire – including the Dever Valley and much of the Test Valley – has no surplus water resources during the summer months.
The county depends heavily on its underground sources, especially the chalk aquifer. These reserves have been both resilient and reliable in the past, and many boreholes continue to provide pure drinking water without any artificial treatment. However, improved detection of pollutants over the last decade has heightened awareness of their vulnerability to contamination from human activity.
These were some of the issues discussed by Rod Murchie of the Environment Agency’s Hampshire & Isle of Wight Area Office2 when he addressed Dever Society members following their Annual General Meeting last week3.
Members heard that Hampshire has more designated wildlife areas4 than any other county; these include the Test Valley and the Dever Valley as far as Wonston and Sutton Scotney. “These are superb rivers by any standards,” said Rod Murchie, “though most of the wading birds have now gone. Our river management teams are working with landowners and our colleagues in Natural England to try to attract them back”.
However, local water supplies are under increasing pressure from climate change and population growth. “Hampshire receives lower rainfall per person than either Australia or some countries in the Middle East,” Rod Murchie told his audience. “Changing rainfall patterns are affecting the replenishment of underground supplies, and compulsory water metering across the south east region is a real possibility. Projected river flows are alarmingly low, yet by contrast the region faces an increasing risk of winter flooding”.
Rod Murchie is currently giving evidence on the future of Hampshire’s water resources to the Examination in Public that is reviewing the draft South East Plan5. This key planning policy document sets out a vision for the future development of England’s largest region until 2026.
The Dever Society was present at the discussion on central Hampshire and the New Forest, to advocate strong protection for Hampshire’s rural heartlands. “The chalk downlands are a unique resource for recreation and the local agricultural economy,” says Tessa Robertson, the Society’s Vice Chairman. “They also form a vital water catchment area that helps to boost the county’s precious underground supplies”.
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Notes for Editors
- The Dever Society is an amenity society for the Hampshire Downs and the Dever Valley, and is a registered charity affiliated to the Civic Trust. The Society’s principal objective is to conserve, protect and celebrate the downland that forms the county’s rural heartland.The Society has a large membership, drawn not only from those who live in the Dever Valley, but also from a wide area of Hampshire and elsewhere in Britain.
- The Environment Agency is the leading public body for protecting and improving the environment in England and Wales. The Agency works to make sure that air, land and water are looked after by everyone in today’s society, so that tomorrow’s generations inherit a cleaner, healthier world.Rod Murchie is the Water Resources Team Leader, based at the Agency’s Hampshire & Isle of Wight Area Office, Colvedene Court, Colden Common, Hampshire, SO21 1WP
- The Dever Society’s Annual General Meeting was held on Wednesday 31 January 2007 at the Northbrook Hall, Micheldever. In addition to the Society’s officers, 45 members attended the meeting; the Society also welcomed Cllr Barry Lipscomb from Winchester City Council, and Cllr Jackie Porter from Hampshire County Council.
- Designated wildlife sites are areas of national or local importance that are legally protected under UK law; these include National Parks, National and Local Nature Reserves, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Hampshire also has a number of areas of international importance that are protected by European legislation.Much of the Test Valley and the River Dever are designated as part of the River Test SSSI.
- The South East Plan provides the blueprint for development in the south east region for the period 2006 to 2026.A panel of inspectors is currently carrying out an Examination in Public into the draft Plan, and the hearing is scheduled to last until March 2007.
The Dever Society: 01962 774040
Tessa Robertson: 01962 774690
Mobile: 07714 759517
The Environment Agency: 08708 506506
Rod Murchie: 01962 764839
Designated wildlife sites: www.naturalengland.org.uk
South East Plan: www.southeast-ra.gov.uk/southeastplan