Thames Water supports new strategy to restore chalk streams

Grayling in Chalk Stream (Photo credit Paul Colley).

Thames Water has partnered with Chalk Stream Restoration Working Group to launch a new Chalk Stream Restoration Strategy, which calls for chalk streams in England to be given enhanced environmental status.

Published by the Working Group, the strategy sets out a list of recommendations to protect and restore England’s chalk streams. It calls for priority status for chalk streams, to drive investment to prevent pollution and over-abstraction, as well as restoring habitats to improve biodiversity.

Sarah Bentley, CEO for Thames Water, commented: “We’re progressing ambitious plans to stop unsustainable abstractions to increase flow and eliminate untreated discharges to improve water quality. While this will take time, we are making progress and the strategy is an important step forward that informs and supports our wider restoration plans.”

England is home to over 280 chalk streams as well as dozens of smaller waterbodies, which are formed when rainwater falls on chalk hills, filters through the rock, and creates springs of cool, alkaline, mineral-rich water.

The strategy was created by the Catchment Based Approach’s (CaBA), Chalk Stream Restoration Working Group, whose partners include Defra, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Water Companies, Ofwat, and eNGOs.

Charles Rangeley-Wilson, chair of the Chalk Stream Restoration Working Group, said: “No other country in the world has anything like England’s chalk stream habitat – they’re England’s Great Barrier Reef or Okavango delta. There are dozens of actions that could and should be taken to protect them but giving chalk streams enhanced status is a vital next step.”

Thames Water has already made a series of commitments to protect and enhance chalk streams including increasing capacity at Chesham sewage works by 30% by 2023, and stopping all abstraction from Hawridge on the River Chess by the end of 2024.

The company has launched its Smarter Water Catchment Initiatives, which go beyond the water industry to identify all the pressures on a river and work with partners to address them. Working with key groups such as the River Chess Association the initiatives take a more holistic approach to catchment management. A first of its kind in the UK, the plans set out a 10-year commitment to improve biodiversity and help address water quality issues, as well as providing wider benefits for local communities through better access, improved amenities, school programmes volunteering opportunities, and health and well-being benefits.