Mohammad Fayyaz: Urgent action is needed to save our chalk streams
By Mohammad Fayyaz in yourChesham
We need rain! I don't really want it right now as I sit writing this in August when people want to enjoy their summer holidays, but this autumn and winter, let it rain!
Then I hope that we might see the River Chess flowing again through Chesham. It's so sad to see it all dried up by the Queen's Head and in what we still call the Meades Water Gardens. It's not just the Chess. I've just been reading the report Chalk Streams in Crisis, by Martin Salter and Stuart Singleton-White.
It tells how chalk streams are an extremely rare habitat worldwide, and 85% of them are in Britain. There are nine here in the Chilterns, but they are all under threat.
Lack of rain is certainly part of the reason why our river is dry. The climate scientists tell us that Britain's climate is getting warmer and wetter, but it doesn't seem to be wetter here in recent years.
Some parts of the north have had torrential downpours this summer, threatening the dam at Whaley Bridge at one point, but here we have had many dry months over several years, as I know from all the watering that we had to do for Chesham in Bloom the last two years.
We need autumn and winter rain for sure to soak into the aquifer and get the Chess flowing, but long-term, we have to do something drastic about the amount of water the water companies abstract from the chalk beneath us to supply their consumers. The river is being sucked dry.
With a growing population, there is an urgent need for more water storage capacity in the south-east. The companies must also reduce the amount of leakage from their pipes and we must all be more careful how we use water - we use more water per head in this area than anywhere else in the country.
We must not ignore the damage being done to our chalk streams and we have a particular duty to care for the Chess, the river to which Chesham gave its name.
This article was first published in yourChesham and is reproduced here with permission. The magazine for September can be seen here. Mohammad Fayyaz is the Liberal Democrat town councillor for Asheridge Vale and writes a regular monthly column for yourChesham.