A LIMIT has been agreed on Southern Water's access to two iconic Hampshire rivers, leaving it to change its multi-million-pound pipeline plans.
A public inquiry had been launched by minister Michael Gove into the amount of water that can be taken from the River Test and Itchen, and now a limit has been put in place, 'saving' the salmon that call the rivers their home.
It means that the company has not only abandoned its longstanding plans for a £50 million pipeline, but has also now agreed to tight restrictions after the inquiry outcome.
Southern Water had hoped to install a pipelines that could have transferred up to 45 million litres of water a day from the River Test to the Itchen. Those plans have now been scrapped.
Southern Water said it believed in 'long-term' solutions.
In response to the agreement, the Dr Alison Hoyle, director of compliance, said: "We take our environmental responsibility very seriously and we are pleased to have reached an agreement with our regulator which protects the precious and unique environment of our chalk stream habitats whilst ensuring security of water supply.
"The agreement being struck over abstraction from these precious and special rivers should not distract from the equally important planning that will ensure that generations to come will experience our chalk stream habitats."
Dr Hoyle added that they were already consulting customers over construction of new water resources.
Two of the most famous chalk-stream rivers in the world, they are the home of unique genetic populations of Atlantic salmon, and also supply much of the population of south Hampshire's drinking water.
More than ten years ago, the Environment Agency proposed that the water firm should reduce abstractions from the Itchen during droughts, because it is designated as a special area of conservation.
Representing the Testwood and Nursling salmon fishery, Fish Legal made the case that extra abstraction would risk deterioration in the lower Test.
Andrew Kelton, lead solicitor for Fish Legal on the case, said: "Fish Legal is confident that, in the long-term, the tight limits and public accountability imposed by these agreements will mean that Southern Water cannot now rely on increased abstraction and transfer from Testwood.
"Ultimately, only time will tell but this appears to represent an end to the company's long-held plans for further exploiting the chalk-stream sources of southern Hampshire and therefore a victory for one of this country's most precious natural assets."