Tuesday 21 February 2012
The official announcement of drought in the South East and parts of East Anglia by the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman yesterday has led to increased fears for the state of the Chilterns' chalk streams.
Two consecutive winters of below average rainfall have already had a deleterious effect on local rivers like the Chess, Misbourne, Gade and Bulbourne. At this time of year winter rainfall should be re-charging groundwater levels, with the result that the streams have good flow along their whole length, but are instead very low and still declining. The upper reaches of the Wye, Misbourne, Chess, Bulbourne, Gade and Ver rivers have been dry since last autumn and the Hamble Brook and Hughenden Streams are dry along their entire length.
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme last Thursday, Chilterns Chalk Streams Officer Allen Beechey described the situation in the River Chess in Chesham as 'desperate', with the riverbed completely dry and fish populations dead.
Chilterns' rivers are also affected by abstraction of local groundwater for public water supplies. The population in the Chilterns area uses more water per person than most other parts of the UK which places great demand on groundwater supplies. With the current drought forcast to be worse than even the 1976 drought, it will be essential for the public to save water int he coming months to help minimise the damage to our chalk streams.
Keep an eye on flow levels in Chilterns chalk streams on our Drought Watch page.
Defra announcement on drought.