What is the chalk aquifer and why is it important?
In summer 2019 the chalk aquifer that we use for our water supply reached a record low level and the effects on the streams that it normally supplies were devastating. Nicola asked Ruth Hawksley from the Wildlife Trusts why these streams are so important and how this situation came about. There are a number of factors including population growth and climate change. Ruth also explains what Cambridge Water is doing to help, and why this is not an entirely effective solution.
How does our water use affect streams and vegetation?
Here is an animated simulation of how our water use affects streams and vegetation. It shows how water taken from the aquifer lowers the water table, so that streams dry up and trees do not get enough water. When it rains again, the aquifer is replenished. You can also see what happens when Cambridge Water pumps directly into some of the streams to maintain the flow. After watching the video you might like to try driving the simulation yourself.
What Cambridge City Council are doing
Katie Thornburrow from Cambridge City Council talks about how the council views the problem and what can be done. She describes the crisis forum she initiated and some of the outcomes. The council commissioned an integrated management study which looked at options including bringing in water from other areas, and encouraging farmers to give up their abstraction licenses. Water efficiency in new homes is also very important and the development of Eddington, in North East Cambridge, demonstrates what can be done – but the council does not have the powers they need to enforce appropriate standards.
Where could you save water?
Explore your water use at home and how much you could save with this water use calculator. The calculator includes taps and toilets, showers and baths, washing machine, dishwasher, watering the garden and car washing. It shows you how much you use (per person per day) for the different activities. And you can see what difference you can make by installing simple measures or adjusting your habits.
More things you can do:
- Get a water meter (if you have not got one). It’s free and if you find you are not benefiting you can switch back!
- Get help with saving water – sign up for Cambridge Water’s Get Water Fit campaign
- Check your toilet for leaks – here is advice from WaterSafe
- Check your taps for leaks
- Sign the River Cam Manifesto (Cam Valley Forum) to show you want action taken to protect the Cam and the chalk streams that feed it.
- Watch the Waterlight Project film – A journey along one of our beautiful chalk streams called the Mell.
- Fun facts and games for children: Educational resources from Cambridge Water
- Transition Cambridge – Water project
- Cam Valley Forum
- Cambridge Water – water saving tips
- Compare Cambridge Water performance with other companies and find out more about water supply at the national level from Discover Water
- Options for water supply in Cambridge (blog post summarising parts of the the Greater Cambridge Local Plan Strategic Spatial Options Assessment: Integrated Water Management Study (November 2020)
- Greater Cambridge Chalk Streams Project Report (December 2020) – lists the chalk streams in the county, their status and recommended actions.
Source: Earth Optimism Cambridge