Our Chalk Streams in Crisis

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Feargal Sharkey, the punk-star turned fisheries chairman and environmental activist, was guest speaker at the third Our Planet Our Future continues event at The Harpenden Arms on 11th February 2019.

Feargal showed the audience images of our local chalk streams explaining that since the 1980s, many streams have dried up in part, and where they do run, they are polluted by sewerage works and surface water run-off. They are running out of water because of intensive water abstraction at their sources. Hertfordshire residents use on average more than 160L of water per day, but our rivers and streams can only support usage of around 110L. In Germany and Scandinavia, better use of grey water systems means householders only need to use around 80-90L per day.

The packed audience at The Harpenden Arms learnt how are chalk streams are – all of world’s 200 chalk streams are in England and they were all formed 79 million years ago!

Feargal lobbies the Environment Agency and Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, he Environment Agency and local water companies in his role as chair of Amwell Magna Fishery to improve the ecological status of the UK’s rivers – in 2018 the proportion of rivers in England meeting ‘Good’ ecological status had dropped to just 14% (from 24% in 2016 and 36% in 2012).  He encouraged the audience:

  • use less water and
  • lobby their water companies and Defra to protect chalk streams.

In particular we were asked to write to Defra by 12th March 2019 responding to their consultation Improving our management of water in the environment; the link to respond is here.

You can see Feargal’s presentation here and also read more about Feargal’s mission here in a Guardian article from December 2018.

Our second speaker, John Pritchard, chair of the Ver Valley Society, then described the work that the Ver Valley Society does to protect the lower stretch of the River Ver (the upper part having dried up).   John’s presentation can be viewed here.  John encourage the audience to:

  • reduce their water consumption
  • respond by 12th March 2019 to the current Defra consultation Improving our management of water in the environment; the link to respond is here.
  • respond to the forthcoming Affinity Water consultation on their Water Resources Draft Management Plan which will be issued in March 2019
  • … and to join the Ver Valley Society, or join their monthly working parties or become Ver Valley Society River Bailiffs watching the Ver.

With thanks to The Harpenden Trust and the Harpenden Arms for support this series of events.