New strategy launched to protect chalk streams

Photo by Elina Sazonova:

Often referred to as the equivalent of England’s rainforests, 85% of the world’s chalk streams are estimated to be in England and around 29% of these are in East Anglia.

Most water in the East comes from rainwater stored deep underground in natural chalk ‘aquifers’, which feed chalk streams. Chalk streams also need good water quality for different species of fish, plants and insects to flourish.

However, they face significant challenges in the 21st century due to complex problems worsened by climate change and population growth.

The report by the Catchment Based Approach’s Chalk Stream Restoration Group, a subgroup of the National Support Group which brings together organisations with an interest in chalk stream management, sets out recommendations of how to enhance these precious habitats.

The group is made up of representatives from the Environment Agency, Natural England, Ofwat, Water UK, World Wide Fund for Nature, Angling Trust, Salmon and Trout Conservation, The Rivers Trust, Wild Trout Trust and Wildlife Trusts.

This strategy, aimed at everyone who has responsibility for, or uses, chalk streams, sets out actions and recommendations for government, regulators and the water industry on water resources, water quality and habitat restoration and management.

Recommendations in the strategy include enhanced status to drive investment in water resources to help reduce pollution and eliminate over abstraction, as well as restoring physical habitat and biodiversity.

Natural England Chair Tony Juniper commented: “Chalk streams are a unique natural feature. Most such rivers in the world are found here in England, we have a particular responsibility to ensure that they are in good health.

“These habitats are subject to a complex range of pressures. From pollution arising from road run-off, agriculture and sewage, to low flow resulting from abstraction for public water supply and physical damage to the water courses.

“We look forward to working with others to ensure this new strategy leads to the kind of joined-up partnership action needed to address these pressures. This includes protecting and restoring chalk streams for future generations to enjoy.”

The Chalk Stream Strategy is available on the Catchment Based Approach website.