Protesters are demanding action from authorities after a river disappeared.

More than two hundred people demonstrated outside Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub in St Albans last Sunday (September 22) against the lack of water in a lake in Veralumium Park, which is part of the River Ver.

The protest, organised by the Ver Valley Society, called for Environment Agency and water supplier Affinity Water to acknowledge how dry the river had become.

Ver Valley Society chairman John Pritchard said: “The river dried up last week without any warning or anyone saying anything.

“We need to be using a lot less water per person and everyone needs to know how bad the situation is.

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The dried up river at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in Verulamium Park. Photo: Alison Debenham

“Our protest was not just against Affinity Water but against the Government and the Environment Agency who seem to think it is reasonable for the river to dry up without doing or saying anything.”

According to Ver Valley Society, the river is fed from underground spring water. It said abstraction of the water for home use and dry weather has caused the river to disappear.

The River Ver is a chalk stream and flows from the Chiltern Hills south through St Albans and joins the River Colne near Bricket Wood.

It is only 28km long and 14km of its length from Kensworth to Redbournbury is dry – affecting the amount of water flowing into St Albans.

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The dried up Ver near Redbournbury. Photo: @VerValleySoc

Ver Valley Society said it took issue with the fact that Environment Agency decided to not call a drought and Affinity Water did not call a hose pipe ban.

Affinity Water explained it does not abstract water directly from chalk streams, and instead extracts water from boreholes which reach into groundwater sources called aquifers.

Environment Agency and Affinity Water said the lack of water was due to below average rainfall over the past three years and many chalk streams are experiencing low flows.

An Affinity Water spokesperson said: “River and chalk stream flows are strongest when groundwater sources nearer the surface are high and are easily able to feed into surface water. After long periods of dry weather, the groundwater sources near the surface are the first to be affected, which then impacts on the flow of some rivers and chalk streams.

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Protesters outside Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pubs. Photos: @ChilternStreams

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Water levels are low due to lack of rain over the long term. “Two of the last three winters have seen low rainfall and as a result drought conditions are affecting parts of the south east and East Anglia. Winter is the critical period for rivers, groundwater aquifers and reservoirs to refill, as rain falling in spring and summer is taken up by plants or evaporates in the warmer temperatures.

“Groundwater levels in Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire are tracking similar levels to 1991/92, 1996/97 and 2005/06 drought years. It is the chalk groundwater which provides the base flow to chalk rivers in the summer and this is predominantly why we are currently seeing very low river flows.

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Photo: @ChilternStreams

“In Hertfordshire and north London, the Environment Agency has been collaborating with Affinity Water to reduce abstraction from pumping stations that impact seven chalk streams, reducing the pressure in an area of significant water stress.

“Chalk streams need rain and the prolonged period of hot, dry weather is having an impact. We would urge everyone, especially in the South East, where there is particular water stress, to use water responsibly. Every litre of water we save is a litre supporting our rivers and wildlife."

Affinity Water also encouraged people to use water responsibly.