Save Britain’s Rivers: Plan to restore England’s chalk streams may take decades

Save Britain’s Rivers: Plan to restore England’s chalk streams may take decades

The river Itchen is a chalk stream in Hampshire, UK

Tommy Lee Walker/Shutterstock

A plan to revive chalk streams in England, a significant kind of river that performs host to species comparable to kingfishers, mayflies and dragonflies, could take a long time regardless of hundreds of thousands of kilos value of funding.

Save Britain's rivers

England is residence to 85 per cent of the world’s chalk streams – rivers that rise from springs discovered on 60-million-year-old chalk bedrock and have notably nutrient-rich water. Of the 220 chalk streams in England, solely 17 per cent are in good ecological well being, in line with the Atmosphere Company, because of a spread of points comparable to bodily modification, sewage overflow and agricultural air pollution.

Chalk streams are generally over-exploited as a result of their pure water is straightforward to summary for public water provide, says Tony Juniper at advisory physique Pure England. “For those who’re a water firm, it is a unbelievable product.” he says. For instance, Cambridge Water takes its total water provide from chalk streams.

To handle injury to chalk streams, the UK authorities has launched a method that may see all of them designated as water confused, that means water companies should contemplate whether or not they need to introduce obligatory water metering for his or her prospects.

The technique additionally makes chalk streams a excessive precedence for river restoration schemes. Chalk streams, like the vast majority of rivers across the nation, have been closely modified. “Many have had gravel eliminated for constructing works and had weirs and mills put into them over time,” says Juniper, which adjustments the river stream.

For the monetary yr between 2022 and 2023, there have been 77 chalk stream initiatives funded at a complete price of £1.9 million in England. Fines paid by water companies for polluting might be immediately used to assist fund these initiatives, says Atmosphere Company chair Alan Lovell. This cash most likely isn’t sufficient to revive all England’s chalk streams, says Charles Rangeley-Wilson, a conservationist and chair of the chalk stream technique group, however it is sufficient to kick-start this programme and make an actual distinction in key rivers.

Restoring chalk streams will make them way more resilient to local weather change, says Rangeley-Wilson. However coping with over-extraction requires way more long-term options, particularly as extra individuals are transferring to southern England, which has the best focus of chalk streams. There are not any fast fixes, says Rangeley-Wilson. “That is most likely a multi-decadal programme.”


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