Affinity Water announces further major work on improving the health of our Chalk Streams

Affinity Water is on track to complete major river restoration works in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire in 2021 restoring natural habitats for fish, birds and flower and fauna in local Chalk Streams.

The UK’s largest water only company has expressed its commitment to the environment by saying it would step up its work from previous years with local catchment area groups across its region including councils, community groups, Wildlife Trusts and the Environment Agency. Chalk Rivers to be improved include the Upper Lea, The Beane and The Gade. By 2025 Affinity Water aims to complete over 30 River Restoration Projects across 13 rivers.

The major restoration works will be taking place at The Upper Lea, at Osborne Road, Luton, Bedfordshire; The Beane, at Walkern Rd, Watton at Stone and The Beane Woodhall, Stapleford, Hertfordshire; The Gade, Water End Rd, Great Gaddesden, Hertfordshire; The Misbourne, Amersham to Quarrendon Mill, Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

The Upper Lea river restoration work is on schedule to be completed in September 2021 and the others in Spring 2022. In all Affinity Water will have spent just under £1 million pounds on these five projects and more improvements are in the pipeline.

David Watts, Senior Asset Manager for Affinity Water said: “Working with our partners we are aiming to improve the ecological health of our rivers as part of our Revitalising Chalk Streams programme. Our ambition is to improve river health and create favourable conditions allowing certain fish species, wildlife and plants back into these rivers. We are hoping that a combination of factors will contribute to this including, reducing agricultural runoff and pollution from surface water into the river and removing historical man-made inventions. We need to increase the ecological health of the rivers before plant and invertebrate’s species can re-establish. The Covid19 lockdowns have shown us all how important the natural environment is to local communities, as families enjoy walking by our rivers and communing with nature.

“Rivers change over the years for many different reasons including population growth, neglect and climate change has meant Chalk Rivers have become less able to cope with the natural variations in flow including during drought and floods. By improving velocity and encouraging variation in flow we are aiming to enhance the habitat and biodiversity or the rivers in our improvement programme.”

“We have removed obstacles like weirs, created bypasses around obstacles that can’t be removed, narrowed channels to increase speed of water, created meanders, and carried out tree management work to allow more light into the channel. We recognise the importance of respecting the landscape in which these river lie and have planted native species of aquatic vegetation to improve river bank habitat which I am sure the public in these locations will appreciate.

Kevin Barton, Head of External Communications for Affinity Water said: “We want our customers to know that we are committed to stepping up our river improvement works across our region throughout this year and next and to reduce the amount of water we abstract from our Chalk Streams.

“Our successful Save Our Streams campaign is already having a significant impact and I want to thank our customers for getting behind us to reduce their water abstraction. We launched it in May this year and already 90,000 people have signed up to reduce their water use through receiving tailored advice and practical help from Affinity Water. I would urge those who haven’t yet visited it to do so and learn how they can reduce the use of water in their homes.

“A reduction in abstraction means more water is left in the environment, contributing towards the protection of globally rare Chalk Streams which provide important habitats for numerous species in our local communities, from shrimps, dragonflies and brown trout, to water voles, kingfishers and otters.

“It’s not just about having more water in the environment though. Our Revitalising Chalk Rivers programme is creating resilient river systems by restoring the rivers and enhancing habitats. We have been working with the Environment Agency, land owners and other partners to meet our Water Framework Directive objectives.

“It is acknowledged that Affinity Water has led the way in protecting our Chalk Streams. In September 2020 we stopped taking water from boreholes at the top of the Chess Valley which affects the River Chess in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Across its supply area, Affinity will also be significantly reducing groundwater abstraction in the Ver, Mimram, Upper Lea and Misbourne catchments by 2024 to leave more water in the environment.”

You can find out more about our river restoration programmes mentioned and the partners we are working with here.

* photos are by Penny Bird

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