Drought conditions combined with water abstraction have left the River Ems, which runs through the village of Westbourne, nearly dry. Earlier this month (August 12) Chichester’s MP, Gillian Keegan wrote to the new Environment Minister, Steve Double MP, calling for his immediate intervention to protect the river from drying out entirely.
The MP has been supporting the work of the local community group Friends of the Ems (FoTE), for several years now in an effort to reduce the impact of abstraction by Portsmouth Water. Gillian’s letter emphasised the importance of the habitat as one of only 200 chalk streams, saying current events are “catastrophic for the ecosystem”.
The MP is supporting the group’s efforts to encourage the Environment Agency to enforce its own license conditions and turn on a secondary augmentation point to ensure some water continues to flow downstream.
Councillor Roy Briscoe said: “All of us who are fighting to protect this rare and beautiful habitat are extremely grateful for Gillian’s ongoing support. The River Ems is a hugely important habitat for our area and is a natural wildlife corridor, connecting the South Downs to the sea. Gillian, The Friends of The Ems, and I, will continue to work with Portsmouth Water, the Environment Agency, and others to come up with a long-term solution to protect this significant natural resource.”