19 January 2021
With so much water around, the meadows flooded, and roads inundated with puddles, it is hard to remember how dry the last few years have been in Cambridge. However, the amount of water being taken out of the ground (or “abstraction”) is so great that the recent rain has yet to replenish the underground chalk aquifer, which provides most of our drinking water and fills the streams that flow through the City, and form a key part of our green spaces. The rapid development of the City is leading to ever increasing water demand that the local supply cannot support. The recent rushing brown waters of the Cam clearly show the large amounts of silt and soil run-off that it carries and which settle and smother the gravel beds of the streams. This water also carries pollution and nutrients which encourage plant growth that clogs the channels.
The River Cam at Bait's Bite Lock after recent heavy rains. Photo credit Simon Booth.
Cambridge Green Party therefore welcomes the new report launched by the City Council, with Cam Water, the Wildlife Trust and the Wild Trout Trust, on the City’s water courses. One of the least known streams is Coldhams Brook, which flows through Abbey Ward from the Sainsbury’s roundabout at Coldham’s Lane, through Coldhams Common and under Newmarket Road by the Leper Chapel, out to the Cam. Once connected to Cherry Hinton Brook, water voles are still spotted in some places, and even the occasional otter. Encouragingly the report shows that, although currently in poor quality, the Brook has great potential for improvements that will benefit local people and wildlife alike. However, the report also makes it clear that, without reducing abstration, these streams and the Cam cannot thrive in the long-term.
Hannah Charlotte Copley, Cambridge Green Party City Council Candidate for Abbey ward re-iterates the key point made by the authors that “as a society we need to use water more sustainably and prioritise protection of our local environment, including Coldham’s Brook. We need to make major changes to how we abstract, store and manage water as a city to protect these natural places that make Cambridge so special”.
The organisations publishing the report, particularly Cam Water which has the mandate to provide the water in our taps, must take the necessary action to prevent further deterioration of these fragile and unique ecosystems. This will ensure that the individual actions needed for each stream identified will be viable in the long-term. Cambridge Green Party calls for more decisive and ambitious efforts to protect the City’s chalk streams.
The Council is seeking additional information, as well as your views on actions needed for each stream - deadline 4 March. Visit this page to have your say.