Affinity voluntarily turns off Chess abstraction as part of chalk stream restoration plan

Affinity Water voluntarily turned off abstraction in the head of the Chess Valley in the Chilterns yesterday, World Rivers Day, to leave more water in the River Chess.

The company said it will cut significantly groundwater abstraction in the Ver, Mimram, Upper Lea and Misbourne catchments by 2024, confirming its commitment to restore the globally rare chalk streams in its supply area back to health.

Affinity said England’s chalk streams are “facing a fight for survival” in the face of climate change and increasing demand from a growing population. But as truly special habitats that are home to an abundance of wildlife species, they “should be viewed in the same light as an English Great Barrier Reef or rainforest”.

It said: “Affinity Water is committing to ending environmentally unsustainable abstraction from these precious river catchments and to work in collaboration with other water companies, industries, universities and NGOs to develop alternative, sustainable water supplies away from chalk river catchments.”

Yesterday’s action followed years of investigation, trials, and collaborative efforts with local groups in the Chilterns, the Chilterns Conservation Board and the EA.

Affinity Water chief executive, Pauline Walsh (pictured), said: “This is the decade where we will either protect and enhance the environment for every generation or fall further behind. We recognise this is not a new issue, but it is clear that today we need to act with urgency. We need to work differently to ensure that we can build on the actions in the Chess, Ver and Mimram, as soon as possible, to benefit all of our chalk rivers.”

Chair of the River Chess Association, Paul Jennings, said: “We applaud Affinity Water for taking this landmark action. Flow is the essential element of any river, reducing abstraction is a great first step.”