The River Kennet campaign to make people more aware of where their tap water comes from and to be more sparing in its use has won a top national award.

The campaign by Action for the River Kennet and Thames Water to protect the long-term environmental health of the chalk stream has been named the best community-led initiative at the UK Water Efficiency Awards, held at the House of Lords in London on Monday.

Since its inception Care for the Kennet, which was also backed by the Angling Trust, has helped educate 12,000 people in the upper Kennet area – including Marlborough, Ramsbury and Lambourn – about the link between their tap water and the river it comes from.

The core message of the initiative: “Your water comes from here – the less we use the more there’ll be in the river,” appeared on billboard posters and at local events to encourage households to order free water-saving makeovers and devices.

Defra Minister Richard Benyon, announcing the winners, credited Care for the Kennet with helping support his department’s national Love Your River campaign.

Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, said: “Working with the schools and communities around the upper Kennet has been great fun, and I’m delighted that so many people are now using less water and understand more about their river.

“I am particularly proud of Ramsbury Primary School after their ‘Save water – save the Kennet’ march through the streets of Ramsbury.”

Richard Aylard, sustainability director for Thames Water, said: “Every drop we use is a drop less in the river.

“Care for the Kennet seeks to remind us that using water wisely – whatever the weather – can help protect this glorious river.”

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, said: “Projects such as Care for the Kennet are vitally important if we are to protect river environments.”

When Care for the Kennet was launched last year the country was heading into what turned out to be the driest two year period since records began in 1884, with stretches of the river upstream from Marlborough drying out completely.

The campaign, the first of seven to protect key tributaries feeding the River Thames, aimed initially to educate people ahead of what in April this year had the potential to become a summer drought worse than 1976.

But after a hosepipe ban was imposed by Thames Water and six other water companies in the south and east of England the area experienced the wettest summer on record.