The work, which is expected to be completed by March next year, involves the laying of a new transfer pipe along the B4 192 road between Ramsbury and Aldbourne in Wiltshire in order to enlarge the existing pipework.

According to Thames Water, the improvements will allow it to efficiently supply water during periods of peak demand by taking treated water from Ramsbury to Albourne and reduce the volume of water being taken from the River Kennet.

Currently, Thames Water takes around 10 million litres a day (Mld) from the aquifer under Axford, with 6Mld to 7Mld then being piped 15 miles north to Swindon, while the remaining water is used for local supplies.

Although water used locally is returned to the River Kennet following treatment at sewage works in the area, the water used in Swindon is not returned to the River Kennet but rather to the River Ray, an offshoot of the River Thames.

As a result, around seven million litres is lost from the River Kennet each day, which the Environment Agency (EA) has warned puts pressure on the local wildlife and environment.

In order to protect the chalk stream environment, Thames Water is working with the EA to reduce the water it sends to Swindon from Axford by 3Mld and on a plan for a £10M pipeline, which will instead take water from the River Thames at the Farmoor Reservoir, and halve Swindon’s reliance on the River Kennet.

Thames Water’s sustainability director, Richard Aylard, said: “All the water taken from the Ramsbury bore hole will be returned to the river after being used upstream at Aldbourne, so there will be no adverse impact on the river environment.

“Meanwhile we continue to work on a long-term solution to reduce the amount we transfer to south Swindon from our bore hole at nearby Axford in order to safeguard the Kennet’s world-renowned chalk stream environment.”

Aylard added that it is important for Thames Water to balance its duty to deliver water services to its customers against its duty to protect the environment because its core business depends on access to water sources such as the River Kennet.

Aylard said: “We agree with the EA and with wildlife campaigners, including Action for the River Kennet (ARK), that we must reduce our reliance on the Kennet, and we have plans to do that over the long term.”

Carys Matthews

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