The Fight to Protect Chalk Streams

November 17, 2021

A lock-down message spelt out in pebbles on the bed of a chalk stream resonates far beyond its original meaning and audience.

A long-standing fight to improve legal protection of chalk streams has recently gained momentum, after many years of hard work by some dedicated people. It started many years ago but most recently we have seen:

  • October 2019 The Chiltern Society ‘Chalk Streams in Crisis’ meeting, with representatives of the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Affinity Water, Thames Water, the Chilterns Chalk Stream Project and the Chiltern Conservation Board, with keynote speaker Feargal Sharkey.
  • October 2019 the Chalk Rivers Action Group (CRAG) was set up by Doug Kennedy to support new conversations between the main stakeholders at a senior level.
  • May 2020 a Chalk-Streams First initiative was set up to cease abstraction of water from chalk streams in the Chilterns, supported by a coalition of The Rivers Trust, The Angling Trust, WWF UK, Salmon & Trout Conservation and The Wild Trout Trust.
  • September 2020 Charles Walker MP and Oliver Heald MP launched a new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs dedicated to lobbying on behalf of our chalk-streams .
  • October 2020 the Chalk Streams Summit took place, headed by the then Minister of State at Defra Rebecca Pow MP (after some gentle persuasion from Doug Kennedy of CRAG) and water companies pledged to reduce the amount of water they abstract from the chalk streams and to cut pollution.
  • November 2020 The Chalk Streams Restoration Group set up with Charles Rangeley-Wilson appointed chair.
  • May 2021 The Chalk Streams Restoration Group (CSRG) draft strategy on the future of chalk streams is now available to view and for comment via the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) website. The deadline for responding to the consultation is 15 June 2021.

However, the pledge to cut abstraction does not cover all chalk streams and their future is far from secure. One only has to look at what’s happening with HS2 boring through the Chilterns chalk aquifer to realise that – see this ENDS article and this comment from the Chalk Aquifer Alliance.

One thing we can all do to help protect the water supply in the aquifer is to use less water in our daily routines. The Chiltern Chalk Stream project has some great suggestions about how to save water here: https://www.chilternsaonb.org/chalk-streams/save-water.html

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