On Monday five water resources draft regional plans were published for public consultation. This is the best chance we have had in decades to insist that measures to restore protect and restore chalk stream flows are prioritised.
I’ve been on a few TV and radio interviews trying to get this across in those frustratingly tiny sound-bite that are made available. But the elevator pitch is this:
For the first time ‘best value’ in water resources planning can explicitly include environmental protection and benefits to nature and society: best value is no longer just the cheapest option.
We all know that our chalk streams are under immense pressure as is water supply.
There are a number of components to the problem of water supply in southern England:
there’s storage – where do we put the water?
there’s supply – where do we get it from? Because in the south-east we have low rainfall and a high population
and there’s the infrastructure required to move the water around
You need all three.
Plus, you need to drive efficiency because the real problems tend to come after a dry winter or a series of dry winters, when the supply has stopped and the storage is running low.
That’s when the amount we lose through leaks or being wasteful become very big issues.
And right at the heart of this is the fact that water is the lifeblood of the natural world: when we take too much of it, nature dies.
As has happened with our chalk streams.
These should be the most wonderful, bio-diverse rivers. They are like an English freshwater Great Barrier Reef.
But there is intense pressure on them and around London that pressure is so intense these stream often run dry or slow to a trickle.
The new framework for water resources is our best chance in decades to design a system that saves our chalk streams from destruction.
A surprisingly small amount of extra water – through waste reduction, desalination, water recycling, transfers from places of abundance – and infrastructure would allow us to do this. It must be an urgent priority.
We need ti signal via the consultations that chalk stream are really important and that we need to restore them to natural flows in as short a time-scale as possible. That is why the Chalk Streams First portal is so compelling.
That’s it in a nutshell, I think. Please take part in the consultation so we can have more of the first picture and no more of the second.