As part of the initiative, seven campaigns targeting the seven tributaries of the River Thames were launched today (December 5) by Thames Water and the Angling Trust, linking local water use to the impact on rivers.

The ‘Care for’ campaign was set up as a result of a year of very low rainfall across the Thames Valley and the south east, which Thames Water warns could lead to a potential drought next summer.

Thames tributaries included in the campaign run from Kent to Gloucestershire, with the Kennet, Darent, River Lee, Wey, Wye, Pang and Colm all part of the scheme, which will see bill board posters placed at train stations and other local centres, explaining which river people’s water comes from. As well as urging people to use less, free water-saving devices are also being offered by Thames Water.

According to Thames Water figures, just 468mm of rain has fallen against the annual average of 739mm in the Thames Water region. As a result, the Environment Agency (EA) has classed the area as ‘seriously water stressed’.

Thames Water sustainability director Richard Aylard, said: “Winter rain is vitally important – more so than summer rain, which tends to be used up by plants and lost to evaporation – because it recharges the underground aquifers which drive flows in the rivers across the region throughout the following year.

“One dry winter does not necessarily lead to problems but two in a row can, which is why we are hoping for decent rainfall this winter, as well as urging people to be water-wise.”

Angling Trust, which supports anglers in the UK, chief executive Mark Lloyd, warned that “we use far more water per head in England than people do in other countries, and most of this is wasted.”

He added: “Low flows in rivers are bad for fish and a host of other wildlife. A lack of flow concentrates pollutants, increases temperatures, decreases oxygen levels, clogs up gravels with silt and reduces the available habitat for invertebrates and fish.

The campaign has also received support from environmental groups World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Action for the River Kennet (ARK).

Carys Matthews

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