RIVERS like the one pictured here are in danger of drying up this year - much to the anger of anglers who fish them.

A dry winter followed by only five per cent of usual rainfall in April saw many rivers already drying up and a number of other chalk streams seriously at risk. A further prolonged hot, dry spell could make the problems much worse as we head into summer.

Amongst a growing number of voices being raised, despite a brief spell of wet weather in early May, was barbel river record holder Allan Jackson.

Allan slammed the Environment Agency and water companies after his beloved River Colne  virtually dried up.

The 51-year-old, from Watford, Hertfordshire, caught the venue record barbel of 18 lb in March 2016 – but he fears the good days are long gone.

Commenting on the dry river bed scene scene above, Allan said: “This was a flowing river and part of the River Colne in London Colney… not a path. And it is not even summer yet. This is a disaster.

“How much of the Colne is going to be lost this year? Over abstraction is killing it.

“The rivers are literally disappearing before our eyes and it’s been going on for some years now. It’s a completely dire situation.

Allan Jackson, seen with his 18 lb barbel, is concerned more rivers will dry up in the weeks ahead.

“The rivers are meant to be around 4ft deep but instead, they’re about 6 in.

“We are at crisis point but no one seems to be doing anything to help it – if it continues, rivers in this area will be completely devoid of life.”

Former barbel record holder and environment campaigner ‪Ray Walton‪ said: “Affinity Water, Thames Water and the EA are obviously not monitoring the water levels anymore.

“They don’t give two hoots if all our rivers and streams dry up as long as they sell our precious water to car washes and other nonsensical businesses.”

Will abstraction change happen?

As concerns over low river levels grows, a party group of MPs headed by former environment minister Richard Benyon, and backed by angling, farming and wildlife groups, has called for a complete overhaul of the UK’s outdated water abstraction regime.

Despite a huge increase in population, the last reservoir built in the South East was nearly 50 years ago with water companies increasingly reliant on abstraction.

Water minister Therese Coffey has written to the Angling Trust saying that abstraction reform will not be implemented until the early 2020s.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Trust explained: “Low river flows are highly detrimental to fish stocks as they concentrate pollution, encourage weed growth which eventually de-oxygenates, hamper migration for breeding and make the fish more vulnerable to predators.

Mark Lloyd is pushing the case against over-abstraction of river water.

“Abstraction reform has been talked about for over a decade, but successive administrations have repeatedly failed to grasp this nettle.

“Reform cannot wait until the 2020s but needs to be implemented urgently to protect the water environment and the wildlife it supports.

Richard Benyon MP added: “We need an abstraction regime that is fit for today rather than 50 years ago when it was set up. Warmer drier winters, periods of drought and other changing weather patterns mean this should be a priority for the new Government to tackle.”

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