Campaigners to protect the River Kennet are celebrating a major milestone in protecting it from over extraction of water.

In an advert in the Gazette and Herald last week, the Environment Agency formally announced its intention to reduce abstraction from Axford Pumping Station and to stop abstracting water from the River Og to protect the River Kennet - a Site of Special Scientific Interest - in an advert in the Gazette and Herald.

It is part of a programme to help restore sustainable abstraction with reductions starting from April 2017.

The 45-mile long River Kennet is one of England's most important chalk streams. It is the largest tributary of the Thames and in summer months contributes up to half its flow.

ARK chairman Geoffrey Findlay said: "This is the first concrete evidence of real progress to reduce water abstraction from the River Kennet, and represents a very important milestone." 

Agreement to leave more water in the river was reached in 2013 and was due to come in to effect in 2015.

But it has been beset by delays as the Environment Agency and Thames Water wrangled about who would pay for an alternative water supply to Swindon.

Those problems have now been resolved and Thames Water plans a north-south Swindon pipeline, which will supply Swindon with water from Farmoor Reservoir instead of from the River Kennet.

Charlotte Hitchmough, ARK’s director, said: "ARK has campaigned vociferously for over 20 years to reduce the amount of water exported from the Kennet to Swindon, and this is the first important step to that wish becoming a reality.

"We congratulate both the Environment Agency and Thames Water for reaching this stage, and we look forward to hearing positive news about the progress of the new pipeline.

"Most importantly we look forward to seeing a healthier river from 2017.’