Chalk Streams

Thank you for contacting me about chalk streams.

Chalk streams represent an important part of our national heritage. England is home to 85 per cent of all chalk streams, which are the most biodiverse of all English rivers. However, chalk streams are threatened by multiple pressures, including over abstraction, agricultural pollution, and physical modifications. Protecting and restoring chalk streams is a priority and the Government, as well as regulators, plays a key role in delivering the National Chalk Stream Restoration Strategy.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is reducing the amount of water abstracted from chalk streams by enabling abstractors to find more sustainable sources. I understand that over the last 15 years, the Environment Agency’s Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme has resulted in 131 million litres less water a day being abstracted from chalk streams.

Further, the Government designated all chalk stream areas as high priority under the Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan, which has protected chalk streams from sewage pollution, with a target to reduce harmful spills into these rivers by 75 per cent by 2035. Defra is also reducing the abstraction pressure on chalk streams by designating all chalk catchments as water stressed, which can drive action to increase water efficiency.

Finally, Ministers continue to work on improving chalk streams, through supporting the Chalk Streams Restoration Group, as well as beginning a national programme of flagship chalk catchment restorations launched by water companies and driven by local communities. In addition, more than £5 million is being invested by the Environment Agency to support 53 chalk stream restoration partnership projects nationwide.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.