River Thames source dries up and shifts 10 miles east amid heatwave – The Independent

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There is no running water or sign of marine life within nearly 10 miles of the usual source of the River Thames, and the climate crisis means this temporary shift could change permanently in the future, experts have said.

The source of the river, fed by limestone aquifers in the Cotswolds, is in a field marked by an old stone behind a pub called The Thames Head Inn.

While the springs that set the Thames on its course to London often dry up in the summer, conditions are “much worse” this year, and the ground is currently little more than a dry and dusty head.

To find free-flowing water, visitors must walk downstream for about two hours to cover the nine miles (15 km) to where the river flows.

“If you look at the longest rivers in the world, British rivers come up quite low. The Thames is our second longest river after the Severn, so to talk about 15 kilometers of it being essentially missing, that is shocking.” Alisdair Naulls of the Rivers Trust told The independent.

This week Mr Naulls visited the source of the Thames to see the impact of the hot weather and to raise awareness of how drought affects waterways.

“This dry hot weather is chasing the river in its course. Any idea that you can walk for miles in a river, stepping on dusty stones – in Britain – is shocking,” he said.

Asked where the “new” source of the Thames is, Mr Naulls said: “You move a long way down the river to find signs of a real river – I stood in the Thames which Wednesday was wet and rivery, just up from Cricklade. So, you’d have to go a little further upstream to find the new source of the Thames.”

The lack of a visible river for miles is of particular importance to the pub named after it.

Manager Dave McMeeking told The independent: “We’re constantly getting people running from this pub, from all over the world. It’s a big draw for us to be here – that’s pretty much the whole point. And people now of course say they can’t see miles of water. “

“It’s never that dry. In the winter it’s a bubbling spring and it starts out more like a flooded field than a stream, but half a mile on it becomes more of a steady stream.”

He said that if these types of dry spells become more common – as expected due to the worsening climate crisis – then it would be “fair” for the business.

‘It’s never this dry’. The stone marker of the source of the River Thames in Gloucestershire on August 8


Major rivers across Europe are suffering even worse water shortages than the Thames, with alarming images of the riverbeds of the Rhine in Germany, the Danube in Eastern Europe and the Loire in France all underscoring the dry conditions the series of summer heatwaves have brought .

In Romania, activists have staged protests highlighting the role of emissions in exacerbating the climate crisis that has raised the likelihood of intense, prolonged heat waves.

The low river levels mean that only reduced shipments of Ukrainian grain can be landed in Romania.

On the Rhine, activists have pointed out the irony of ships full of coal that cannot pass through the river’s shallow waters to reach the coal-fired power plants.

The ecological impact is “enormous”, Mr Naulls said.

“Already along those river banks are all kinds of plants that like to ‘get their feet wet’ as the Gardeners’ World team would say – they will struggle. And the birds, mammals, reptiles, that live along these living, green and blue arteries will also struggle if their nutrient source is affected”

Mr Naulls warned that if it does eventually rain, the result could be flash floods.

He said: “When it rains, the infiltration rate – the rate at which water is properly absorbed into the environment – will be greatly reduced. Why? The rain will fall on shiny, concrete-hard ground, it will bounce and flow away much faster than usual.

“Without a doubt we will soon be experiencing floods and at this stage, we must remember, we will still be in a climate crisis. These extreme weather conditions are the new normal.

He said: “We need to manage our water resources as a country much better. This needs to come from the government and the water bodies. Yes, we can each do our bit, however, it is difficult to tell someone is standing in a meter of water in Islington the other night that they have to cut back on their shower time to help conserve water.”

He added: “We have a leakage of 20 percent of our drinking water. We have to fix this. We cannot move forward with, literally, broken infrastructure and be prepared for this new normal.”

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