Recommendations Made For The Protection Of Chalk Streams
A new report from the Catchment Based Approach’s Chalk Stream Restoration Group has detailed various recommendations for enhancing precious chalk streams – or England’s rainforests, as they’re also often referred to as.
These recommendations include enhanced status to help drive investment in water resources so as to reduce pollution and eliminate over-abstraction, as well as restoring biodiversity and physical habitats.
The new strategy has been welcomed by the Environment Agency, which has already been involved in numerous local partnership projects to help bring chalk streams back to life, including two in Norfolk.
Earlier this year, the organisation teamed up with the Norfolk Rivers Trust to complete a project to improve fish migration in the upper River Tiffey, with the installation of a fish pass in the chalk stream helping different species navigate their way through the river system.
And the National Trust also launched a £1.6 million restoration project on the rivers and streams along the Upper Bure. Over the years, this river has been heavily modified, which has caused local fish populations to suffer… but the four-year restoration programme will help achieve a good status under the water regulations.
As habitats, chalk streams are both rare and valuable, with around 85 per cent of the world’s streams to be found in England – and approximately 29 per cent of these are in East Anglia. In this region, the majority of drinking water comes from rainwater stored deep below ground in natural chalk aquifers, which then feed the chalk streams.
These streams also need good water quality to help ensure that different species of fish, plants and insects are able to flourish. However, climate change and population growth are now exacerbating the significant challenges these chalk streams face.
Simon Hawkins, Environment Agency area director for East Anglia, said: “Improvements in chalk streams across East Anglia are being made, but more needs to be done.
“We are working with water companies, abstractors and catchment partnerships across the East of England to deliver a range of actions. This includes tackling pollution, carrying out river restoration projects and, in some cases, changes to abstraction licences.”
According to the WWF State of England’s Chalk Streams report, which was published back in 2014, there are 260 true chalk streams on earth, with 224 to be found in England, but water abstraction, climate change, physical modification, sewage pollution, agriculture and septic tanks are now putting them at risk of disappearing altogether.
One of the biggest problems, aside from over-abstraction, is global warming, with an increase now being seen in heatwaves and drought conditions, which are drying streams out.
The report also revealed that 77 per cent of chalk streams in England are failing to meet the required Good status, while just 12 of the 224 streams are currently protected.
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