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We must do more to protect Norfolk rivers

PUBLISHED: 15:41 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 10:05 02 July 2010

Amy Gray

But a report by an environmental charity has warned that one in three of the country's rivers could dry up due to the demand for washing and drinking water.

The Wensum, Waveney and Ouse provide some of the regions most popular beauty spots and vital habitat for wildlife.

But a report by an environmental charity has warned that one in three of the country's rivers could dry up due to the demand for washing and drinking water.

The report by Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) highlights the immediate threat to wildlife including water voles, otters and kingfishers and outlines the need for water use to stay within sustainable limits.

The WWF has called for the licences that allow companies to take water from rivers to be changed or revoked by 2020 and has appealed to the Government to work with regulators, water companies and communities to become more water efficient.

According to the charity, many rivers are below their usual levels for the time of year and climate change, population growth and the demand for housing are poised to have significant impacts on river flows.

Reg Land, conservation manager for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: “If it's an issue now it can only get worse. Given all the predictions, even if they are wide of the mark, we are having an impact on water resources now.”

Declan Conway, of the University of East Anglia's school of international development, said: “One of they key issues is that as a society, we don't really recognise the problems which are associated with increased water use.

“I think there are regional drives for an increase of population, increase in urban area and new housing development and so on, and a lot of pressure to support those policies and at the same time, there isn't always due recognition of some environment constraints - either in terms of how much land, loss of biodiversity or how much energy and water is required.”

Abstraction licences are regulated by the Environment Agency (EA) and a spokesman said they were already setting new limits to protect rivers.

“Too much water is currently being taken from around 15pc of rivers in England and Wales,” she said.

Rose Timlett, freshwater policy and programme officer for WWF-UK, said: “All the water we use is taken from the natural environment. The framework for how we manage water resources in England and Wales must be changed.”

Areas of reform set out by the WWF also include rewarding companies that reduce their impact on the environment; encouraging people to use less water; being flexible to times of low water availability and only approving developments where water abstraction will not damage the ecology.

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