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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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HAVE YOUR SAY: £300m West Cumbrian water supply move to save mussels

United Utilities has confirmed that the protection of freshwater mussels is the reason it is spending around £300 million as an alternative to taking water supplies from Ennerdale.

The Environment Agency has called time on the company’s use of Ennerdale Water to supply homes and businesses in Harrington and Salterbeck, and across Copeland, in order to protect the environment.

United Utilities’ preferred solution is to build a new pipeline from Thirlmere and bring together West Cumbria’s drinking water network.

It is waiting for a decision about the scheme from Defra.

But the move to spend so much on a massive engineering project in order to protect a habitat has come under increasing criticism in recent weeks.

United Utilities must halve the amount of water it takes from Ennerdale by the end of next year and stop using it by 2022.

An agency spokesman said the River Ehen, downstream of Ennerdale Water, was home to England’s last viable population of a threatened species of freshwater mussel.

The species appears on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

It needs almost pristine water with sufficient flow and clean gravel to survive.

Its lifecycle also relies on salmon and similar fish.

The River Ehen population is mainly made up of adults as there are not enough mussels being born or surviving to boost numbers.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “The River Ehen is almost unique in offering all of this in one habitat. In the last few years evidence has come to light that the freshwater mussels in the River Ehen are dying out and more radical action is needed to maintain the flow of water.

“Ennerdale valley is one of England’s last great wilderness areas and the River Ehen is a protected site of special scientific interest and under European law as a special area of conservation for freshwater mussels and Atlantic salmon.”

The spokesman said that the current rate of water use from Ennerdale was causing harm.

He added: “To conserve this valuable environment and the wildlife and tourism it supports for future generations, we need to act now.

“We are working hard to ensure a sustainable balance is met between providing a reliable long-term water supply for businesses and communities, while protecting the natural environment, wildlife and nature in this unique landscape.

“We have worked hard to improve the habitat and change the amount of water that can be taken. However, this has not resulted in the improvements needed.

“There is agreement that we need to find new water sources in order for the river and lake to recover to their natural state.”

The spokesman said the Thirlmere pipeline solution would provide additional benefit to West Cumbria.

He said: “It would provide more resilient water supplies by connecting West Cumbria to the rest of our supply network.”

Have your say

£300 million to improve the environment for some fresh water mussels ? The customers are the ultimate bill payers and I haven't heard a good reason yet why these mussels are so important that they merit the spending of £300 million of our money. I'd gladly listen to a rational, common sense explanation.

Posted by John on 31 August 2014 at 20:35

C Forte, judging by some of the eplies you see on this board and others, Neanderthal man is still here and voicing his could not care less opinions.

Posted by Andy on 28 August 2014 at 11:36

View all 15 comments on this article

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