Minimum Flows

NACA Campaigns - Minimum Flows

Soon after its creation the Association recognised that one of the factors that had led to the decline in the quality of Norfolk Rivers was simply the lack of water flowing in them. There had been well publicised occasions when the water had ceased to flow over the Costessey weir and the quality of the Wensum appeared to be in free fall. Indeed was a primary factor which had much to do with the original founding of NACA some 16 years ago.

Over abstraction caused this weir at Costessey near Norwich to stop flowingThe Association commenced a campaign to have the question of minimum flows addressed as soon as the National Rivers Authority came into being. The campaign involved local and national politicians.

The problem was seen to be that such flow rates as had been set were purely arbitrary and neither enforced or based on reliable scientific research. In Norfolk there have been well publicised instances of rivers which have been severely depleted of water; one of the worst instances was the River Burn in north Norfolk which dried up completely. Other rivers had some flow rates set but usually only on the main rivers and little attempt had been made to protect tributaries to ensure that the whole catchment area remained viable.

There was some recognition by the NRA of the problem but any progress was limited by lack of funds being made available. The machinations of the abandonment of the NRA, the creation of the EA and the splitting of MAFF functions regrettably only added to the delay.

The over-riding question has always been the proper allocation of water as a finite resource. Development continues to make demands and some instances have suggested that only when the effects of over abstraction become blatantly apparent are matters taken in hand. The classic example must be Lopham Fen.

In the last two years considerable progress has been made in that the Environment Agency are now actively researching the problem in some depth. Currently a strategy known as CAMS (catchment area management strategy) is being drawn up for each river catchment area. Bearing in mind the efforts made by the Environment Agency in their recent policy of habitat improvement of rivers they have an added incentive to maintain the gains which have been made by ensuring that rivers have sufficient flow. In addition to CAMS the agency are currently researching the hydrology of the aquifer in central and north Norfolk and hope to be able to show to what extent surface and aquifer resources are interrelated.

The CAMS will be all important to the setting and success of minimum flow provisions and the Association will monitor the Agency's progress and liaise as closely as possible to the formation of an effective CAMS.