Gillian has made further enquiries to the Environment Agency. See the answers to her questions below.
When is the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) expected to be published – and please can we have a copy of your findings when it is?
We are working with partners to update the current river basin management plans (RBMP). In October 2019, we launched a consultation seeking views on the challenges our waters face and the choices we all need to make to improve and protect them. Following feedback from stakeholders, we extended the submissions deadline for the consultation until 24 September 2020 and we have published a summary of what people have told us.
Work to review and propose updates to the RBMPs continues. However, due to the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this work is not able to progress as fast as we had originally planned. Once we are able to confirm a revised timetable for updating the RBMPs, we will let stakeholders know.
Has the EA secured funding to carry out invertebrate monitoring this year, if not can we have some further information so we could support this effort?
In 2021, we intend to collect invertebrate samples from two sites on the River Ems. We are also planning to deploy water quality loggers to investigate elevated levels of ammonia and low dissolved oxygen in the lower catchment. This investigation will establish whether these are caused by discharges to the stream or as a result of depleted flows. We will keep the local group, Friends of the Ems updated on this monitoring.
With the Havant reservoir will there be a long term need to abstract from the Ems?
Portsmouth Water are embarking on updating their Water Resource Management Plan where they will look at future demands and the supplies available to them which, in the future, will include Havant Thicket. This plan must take into account proposals for a more ambitious Environmental Destination which have been set out by us in our National Framework for Water Resources. There is a particular focus on improving chalk streams such as the River Ems.
The balance between needing to maintain secure water supplies and improve environmental protection will be explored at a regional level across the water companies of the South East as well as at a local level for Portsmouth Water. There will be opportunities to provide feedback on both the Regional Plan and Portsmouth Water’s plan.
We and Portsmouth Water continue to engage with the local group ‘Friends of the Ems’ to discuss possible short, medium and long term options for management of water resources in the Ems catchment.
Does the EA have any emergency measures or fines it can impose if the environment suffers in instances like Sept 2020 when the river was pumped dry / if yes, have you used them on the Ems?
If a company is in breach of their abstraction licence we have a number of enforcement options open to us which are outlined in our Offence Response Options: Environment Agency
In December 2020 we served an Area Warning Letter on Portsmouth Water for breaching their abstraction licence conditions in September 2020, when they failed to augment the River Ems over several days.
Under the licence agreements are there any conditions in place to maintain a minimum level of the river – and what are the consequences if they’re breached?
The abstraction licence conditions do not require Portsmouth Water to maintain a minimum level or flow at any point in the river. The conditions relating to the augmentation scheme specify that when flows at Westbourne Gauging Station fall below a certain condition, Portsmouth Water must make a discharge of a specified volume into the river at a set discharge point
The consequences of not meeting these conditions are outlined in response to the question above.
If you have any further questions, please get in touch. As you are aware, I was an interim appointment when James Humphrys left the Environment Agency. Simon Moody has now been appointed as Area Director and will start on 8 March 2021.