Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The parable of The Simpsons, series 4, episode 12

Well the weather broke and we have experienced some incredibly intense showers with gutters struggling to cope and water running down the sides of the lane, but the river has hardly responded bar a generally fresher feel and a tinge of colour. This past week has seen two of the biggest fish of the year put on the bank, the first a fish of four pound, was taken on the surface in the middle of the afternoon with the mercury moving well past the thirty mark. The second a fish of six pound was taken on a Caddis nymph around lunch time, both fish had been in the river at least two years or more and were in superb condition, it’s surprising that they made their mistake in the middle of the day having got their eye in over a few seasons, the cricketing equivalent of slapping a full toss to midwicket when well into three figures.
The river is stuffed with minnows, the shallow streams through the garden the deep glides on the bends, the shallows in front of the hut all play host to thousands of the things. The Kingfishers nesting at the top of the river are filling their boots and the young are now fledged and feeding hard on a menu of minnows, although a pond full of silver fish fry provides an alternative meal.
The Millstream is now shut off with all water pushing down the main river to maintain a decent flow, heavily weeded in its lower stretches it sits like a pond but still plays host to fish and quite a few duck have taken advantage of its thick fringe that will now be left for the remainder of the season.
Over on the Itchen an Otter has been about, the signs are there in the fringe along with a few half eaten fish on the bank and tell tale spraints, there are also several broods of Pheasant who occasionally break cover from thick fen to scamper along the cut paths, particularly if I am approaching with my strimmer. Now that the Orchids have finished I am setting about topping the water meadows, a few weeks later than normal which means it is a steady old job.

Oh frack it!

Most of my mental energy is consumed by all things shale gas at the moment. Questions on the phone, emails offering text for perusal, even a call from TV for a quote. The Government (who I did vote for, so it’s my own fault) have gone into overdrive with the pro fracking message, the country will slip back into recession if we do not frack and everyone who signs up can have free lollipops and oodles of cash, have we forgotten the parable of the Simpsons, season four episode 12, and how long before some local government splurges the fracking bunce on a monorail?

Picture the scene:

A nuclear family of Mum, Dad and two point four children sit down for tea in the middle of the week, on two point four chairs to eat four point four pork chops, with vegetables various and some bisto gravy.

Dad: Sit still son, and stop wobbling the table

Child A: it’s not me Dad it’s my sister.

Child B: Not me, we did deportment at school today, I is still!

Dad: You may have done deportment but your grammar isn’t the best, I am still

Child B: Whatever,

Dad: It must be you 0.4, can you sit still please?

Child 0.4: I’m doing my best, but I’ve barely got two legs on this 0.4 of a chair so it’s going to wobble a bit

Mum: You silly beggars, it’ll be them frackers, now eat your chops, we’re going on the monorail later.

Anyone who protests is an ideological extremist, but the line peddled by oil companies and government is almost as extreme.

The answer, must lie somewhere on middle ground, Professional protestors in Prada bring nothing to the party, and neither does the government line that fracking is the panacea to all energy problems and let the lights shine forever. Shale gas may have helped turn the American economy around but they have a little more space and water than we do and the impact will not be felt as acutely as over here. There is a price to pay for the extraction of shale gas, an environmental trade off that few on high will acknowledge. Fracking on this crowded island is a far riskier operation, particularly with regard to precious groundwater supply and environmental impact, the seismic activity I could live with, anytime the earth moves at this stage of life is a welcome event.

Currently we are all being urged to “think of the money” and how posh our plasmas could be when we start pulling gas out from the shale but just over a year ago this corner of England was in a drought, there was not enough water to go around, and we were all warned that the situation was only likely to get worse in the decades to come,particularly in the south east so start using your water wisely.

Fracking is a thirsty business and water abstracted for fracking is, for those interested in the bottom line, the equivalent of living off your capital. It’s withdrawn from the ground, spent on fracking and that’s it gone; waste water that cannot be treated or returned from whence it came, so the rivers and all that live in them miss out. Just over a year ago this river was down to its bare bones (these photos were taken in April 2012) it was rescued by record summer rainfall, if that record rainfall had not fallen and Frackers were fracking freely in this valley pulling water from the ground, we would have been hosting a TV programme titled “Fish rescue”

I have written to my local MP expressing concern over the source of water plus a few others with interests in fishing. To date only one has replied. The others, all in government (that I voted for, I know, I know) have, a month or more later, yet to reply: But then why should they respond to the ravings of an addled crank worried about the river upon which he works?
Two years ago, water supply to the South East of England was a key issue; we were all encouraged to become more water wise. The extraction of shale gas is not water wise, if we are to waste water in this way, the H2O needs to be sourced from somewhere where it is abundant, and then a little thought given as to where it is disposed off, because where the aquatic environment is concerned it is not the most agreeable liquid.

Constant banging on about the possible economic benefits of fracking with a disregard to all else may be symptomatic of the times in which we live, but twenty years down the line, those in the south who took the fracker’s salt may be bemoaning the fact that the unit price of the water in their kettle surpasses the cost of warming the stuff up, and why does the river no longer run at the bottom of the garden?

How about a little transparency over who has a portfolio full of fracking shares?


Jeff Hatt said...

Sounds fracking shit for you lot down South. If water be your world then taking more than can support the environment will have serious repercussions. I doubt anyone will give a toss so long as the cash rolls in and out. We won't care till it's too late, of course, and then we'll blame something, if we know by then what that something is, or means. And we might well when water costs something...

Test Valley River Keeper said...

I find the way that fracking is being pushed to the public quite frightening.

Anyone who objects or raises questions is a crank.

There doesn't appear to be much sensible reasoning, and most seem to have been blinded by money motives

But the stakes are particularly high for fracking in the South East where seventy percent of the water supply is drawn from the ground.

Jeff Hatt said...

Yes, I've just looked into Balcombe and the protests. Good to see local people objecting that way but I fear the energy will dissipate once the activist rent-a-mob vanishes and celeb's jump bandwagon.

Arrests do gain media coverage though. I see it's been all over the news lately and a piece on radio 4 early this morning.

'Sensible reasoning' and long term co-ordinated positive action is the only thing that will stop the monster Cuadrilla in its caterpillar tracks.

Raising awareness of how a chalkstream really works seems necessary. Do people know the first thing about that?

Anonymous said...

Fraking won't bring a fall in energy prices in the same way that any other abundant hydrocarbon hasn't. Nor will Fracking pull UK Plc out of recession, in the same way that it's only hard work by the man and woman on the street that will make the UK liquid again.
The font at Mottisfont ran dry years ago due to abstraction -probably for bottled water. River flows on the Test between Horsebridge and Broadlands only increase by 1 cubic meter per second in dry spells. We do not know what the effects of fraking will be in years to come, experimenting with it for such little benefit (look at the licence maps) may be too damaging to the water source for the Test and Itchen to survive as a pure chalkstream and could destroy this globally unique environment. The river is already "dying a death by a thousand cuts". To now contemplate fracking in this chalk deposit rather than protecting it is mind-blowingly stupid, it's only a corrupt mind that could favour it. The river has suffered an awful lot in the over 40 years I've known it, I remember a BBC Radio 4 programme from about 1996 or so that compared it's slow demise even then to the Colorado, a river killed by abstraction due to the growth in housing and industry that despite cutting the Grand Canyon no longer reaches the sea... whilst nobody really noticed or cared... just as long as shareholders could spend profits on whimsy

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Hear, hear,

and well said that man,

Thanks for reading the rubbish that I write and for using the word whimsy, top noun, and one that I will employ again at some point in future.

Death by a thousand cuts is partticularly pertinent with regard to the Rivers Test and Itchen.