A new water treatment plant is being built to help reduce the amount of water taken from the region's precious chalk streams.

Hatfield-based water-only supplier Affinity Water is constructing the facility in Sundon, Bedfordshire.

It will play a crucial role in Affinity Water's efforts to decrease unsustainable abstraction by up to 36 million litres per day by 2025.

AAffinity Water's Sundon Water Treatment Facility under construction (Image: Affinity Water)

By bringing in more water from outside the area, specifically from Anglian Water's Grafham Water reservoir near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, Affinity Water aims to minimise the ecological impact on chalk streams and their diverse wildlife populations.

Ben Hayward, head of capital delivery at Affinity Water, said: "The implementation of the new water treatment facility represents a significant step forward in our commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable water management.

"We are grateful for the positive feedback received during the public consultation process and remain dedicated to working with partners to monitor and mitigate any potential impacts on the environment and public water supplies."

Affinity Water’s supply area is home to 10 per cent of the world's rarest chalk streams, which serve as vital habitats for diverse wildlife species. From water- crowfoot to otters, these streams support a rich ecosystem.

The water is sourced from local chalk aquifers, known for their pristine quality and low energy requirements for treatment and distribution.

However, recognising the need to preserve globally rare chalk streams threatened by increasing water demand and climate change impacts, Affinity Water has embarked on an initiative to reduce unsustainable water abstraction.

Overall, Affinity has already reduced abstraction by 42 million litres per day at the end of 2020, and it is hoped this figure will increase to 80 million litres per day by 2025.

Ben Hayward said: "We are dedicated to ending unsustainable abstraction from chalk groundwater sources in the Chilterns and beyond.

"Chalk streams are invaluable ecosystems that support a wide range of wildlife species, and it is our responsibility to safeguard them for future generations."

Construction on the water conditioning plant started in October 2022 and is scheduled to be completed this month (June 2024), with reductions in local groundwater abstraction planned from December 2024 onwards.

To meet water demand while minimising reliance on unsustainable abstraction, Affinity Water will increase its supply from alternative sources, including imported water from Grafham Water.

Customers might notice a change in the taste of their drinking water when the new facility becomes fully operational.

Chemically, water is different depending on the area it comes from. This is because the water travels through rocks and soil which are specific to each area.

An Affinity Water Q&A states: "These natural differences can affect how the pipes react to the water. The water will already be safe to drink but we're conditioning the water to make sure it works with our pipes.

"Our pipes are accustomed to water with a different chemistry."

The frequently asked questions document continues: "Your water supply won't be interrupted and your water pressure will stay the same.

"However, the process that the water conditioning plant uses might mean that some customers in the area will notice a change in the taste and smell of their drinking water.

"If you notice a change, there's no need to worry your water is safe to drink and is still to the same high-quality standard."

Affinity Water, which is based in Tamblin Way, Hatfield, supplies water to areas such as Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Potters Bar, St Albans, Knebworth, Stevenage, Hertford, Luton, Watford and Bishop's Stortford.