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Water depletion 'damaging British wildlife'

WILDLIFE AND wetland habitats throughout Britain are being irreversibly damaged by over-abstraction of groundwater, the Environment Agency warned this week.

In a report published on Monday, the Agency claims that 32 rivers, fens and lakes now have dangerously low flows. A further 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest are affected by abstraction, with up to one hundred rivers currently affected by low water levels or at risk from exploitation.

Among the hardest hit sites are East Ruston Fen in Norfolk, the River Tamar, which forms the boundary between Cornwall and Devon, and the River Wharfe at Pool in Yorkshire.

The report, The state of the environment of England and Wales: fresh waters warns: 'Groundwater must be managed as a sustainable resource. In some areas sustainable yield may have been exceeded and aquifers have depleted storage, low flows have occurred in rivers, and wetlands have been affected.'

The warnings coincide with a House of Commons announcement expected today by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions of an abstraction licensing system review.

The long awaited Green Paper, which was promised by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in May 1997, is expected to recommend the end of damaging licences of right first awarded in the 1960s.

For a copy of the report, priced £35, tel: (0171) 873 9090.

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