On Wednesday 27th November, Dacorum Full Council adopted an important Lib Dem Motion to raise the alert on the local water supply and the risk to globally-rare "chalk-streams" in Dacorum.
Members were unanimous on the Motion, instructing the Environment Portfolio-Holder to write to the Environment Agency, the Water Companies and the Planning Inspector, to highlight the Borough's concerns about water-levels in the chalk aquifer upstream of the Gade and the Bulbourne.
The Motion was proposed by Lib Dem Deputy Leader Cllr Adrian England and was based upon a suggestion from local geographer Mr Steve Wilson of the Friends of Gadebridge Park.
Cllr England said in debate:
"The rivers we enjoy in our parks, the rivers after which our local places are named, are failing. Ironically, Clean Safe and Green have just recently done a great job in clearing the river channel in Gadebridge Park, such that the Winter rainfall (which has become less steady and more on/off) will be less likely to flood the park.
We are facing the worst of the extremes: The Gade is flowing so slowly/weakly during summer that the vegetation is able to grow, where some years ago, the normal flow would have prevented it, but now in any given year we lurch from one extreme to another!"
Rainfall in the South-East is the lowest for any area of the UK, but demand for housing is the highest.
"We are contemplating our part in massive housebuilding, but do we have enough water? We need housing for local people, but that is going to put ADDITIONAL pressure on water supplies. So we need to make the clear connection between our need to preserve the rare chalk-streams, our desire for Gadebridge Park to have a nice river and our obligations and aspirations for homes for local people which get turned into housing targets.
If we want flowing rivers AND enough water supply for residents, we need the agencies and water companies to be sensitive to the complex public interest.
I believe this Motion and the Local Plan must be used to put the case for Affinity Water and Thames Water to spend money bringing in water from other sources, since they are obliged to supply water to households and businesses.
We also have to bring the attention of the Planning Inspector to this complex public interest; indeed, following the Declaration of a Climate Emergency by this Council and Hertfordshire County Council, the issue of development needs to be addressed much more candidly and robustly in Dacorum's new Local Plan."
*Coincidentally, on the Thursday following the Motion, Affinity Water wrote to all Councillors, to say that residents are at risk of a hosepipe ban in the spring - unless it rains all winter!