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Thames Water and Affinity Water team up with environmental groups to improve the health of local chalk streams

Tuesday 19th October 2021 10:25

Picture of the River Chess surrounded by green trees

Thames Water and Affinity Water, have helped to launch an ambitious new initiative that aims to improve the health of local chalk streams, starting with those in the Chilterns. 

The water companies have held a number of meetings with key stakeholders including river groups, local councillors, regulators and MPs to devise a new way of measuring the health of the chalk streams that currently falls outside of existing legislative obligations.

The publication of this Metric is timely following two new reports released this month (October) on the state of the UK's rivers with calls to action. The industry body, Water UK has just released its report, 21st Century Rivers: From Recovery to Renewal. A consortium of groups created by CaBA last week (October 15) published its Chalk Stream Restoration Strategy 2021. Partners included Defra, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Water Companies, Ofwat, and NGOs.

To develop the new ‘chalk stream health metrics’ Thames Water has worked with Affinity Water, and the Arup group. The project was jointly funded by the water companies and has been supported by expertise from Cambridge University, the Environment Agency, the River Restoration Centre and Chalk Streams First.

This new innovative approach will be shared with catchment partnerships, river groups and piloted in partnership in the Chess River catchment area. It will also form part of Thames Water’s Smarter Water Catchment initiative to enhance and protect the River Chess.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s sustainability director said: “Chalk streams are not only breath-taking, they’re an invaluable part of our natural heritage, which benefit local communities and wildlife. Restoring and protecting chalk streams requires a team effort and the new health metrics will help measure our collective activities to improve these important rivers and make a difference to how wastewater is managed across the Chilterns.

“At Thames Water we think investment in water quality improvements for chalk streams is really important and we’re increasing capacity at Chesham sewage works by 39% over the next two years to treat the flows that arrive on site. By actively listening to our customers and working in collaboration with Affinity Water, we can play our part in ensuring these iconic water bodies are enjoyed by future generations.”

 Sir Charles Walker said: “I was pleased to Chair this working group and believe that the new metrics that Affinity Water, Thames Water and Arup have developed will make a significant impact on the health of England’s chalk streams. During the Covid19 lock-down we have come to realise how important our countryside and rivers are for our physical and mental health and we must do more to improve and enhance them for this and future generations who benefit in all kinds of ways from them. Humans and wildlife should be able to share nature’s gifts and live side by side together and this new innovative metrics approach will at last be able to give us a proper measurement of the health of our chalk streams and a proper plan of how we can improve them.”