Could water abstraction proposals mean the end for the River Kennet?

Concerns over the future of one of the UK’s favourite rivers are mounting this week, as Angling Times learned that a licence to abstract more than 11 million litres of water from the Kennet a day is being considered by the Environment Agency.
It could be drained of the equivalent of over four Olympic-sized swimming pools every 24 hours by Thames Water if the EA extends its abstraction licence. The volumes are seen by many anglers as unsustainable and a danger to the river’s long-term health.
Taken from the Kennet at Axford, near Marlborough, the water will supply the residents of nearby south Swindon. The concerns are over the effect the abstraction will have on the Kennet’s levels and its wildlife as the water removed will not re-enter the Kennet catchment area, instead bypassing the waterway and draining into the River Thames via the River Ray.
Chairman of the Barbel Society Steve Pope, who fishes the Kennet, told AT that this could be ‘yet another nail in the river’s coffin’. “The Kennet is not a patch on what it was 10 years ago. With otters and signal crayfish, continued abstraction could well spell the end of a once-prolific venue and the real shame of it is that, as usual, it all comes down to politics and money.”
A spokesperson for Thames Water told AT: “Abstraction from the Kennet is not the solution Thames Water wants, but it’s the only one available to us.
“To ease the pressure on the Kennet, the answer is a transfer pipeline from the River Thames instead. But until funding arrangements for the £10 million needed to build this are made by the EA, we must continue to rely on the Kennet.”
The EA said: “Thames Water has recently applied for a renewal of its existing abstraction licence and we are considering this – a decision will be made by May 6.
“We recognise the Kennet is not as healthy as it could be and we do intend to reduce abstraction at Axford, but this may take several years to sort out.”