River conservation and wildlife groups from across the region are signed up to the Charter and many were present at the launch including; River Beane Restoration Association, Friends of the Mimram, Herts & Middx Wildlife Trust, Test and Itchen Association, The Chilterns Conservation Board, Action for the River Kennet, River Chess Association, River Misbourne Action, The Wandle Trust, and the Wessex Rivers Trust.
Stephen McPartland, Member of Parliament for Stevenage, said, "The River Beane is one of only 200 chalk rivers left in the world and for many years it has been running dry near Aston. The River Beane Restoration Association has long been raising awareness of the issue of over-abstraction, which occurs when the water companies take too much water from the river.
"I have campaigned alongside them for some years now and walked along the dry riverbed last year with over 50 local campaigners to highlight how much water is being taken. We are making progress here in Hertfordshire, as local Members of Parliament and campaign groups have worked together to persuade the Environment Agency to launch a recovery plan for our chalk rivers, but I want to see a start date agreed and the River Beane flowing again.
Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape at The Wildlife Trusts, said, "In the UK we have 85% of all the chalk streams on Earth. Despite this global responsibility these fragile and hugely wildlife-rich streams have been abused and overlooked. This must change and their recovery must begin. The Chalk Streams Charter is an important step in bringing chalk streams out of the shadows and giving them the care and attention they need.
"It’s fitting that the Charter has been launched in Hertfordshire, as a recovery plan for two of this county’s beleaguered chalk rivers, the Mimram and the Beane, was launched this year. Hosted by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, the plan is bringing statutory agencies, environmental charities, local landowners, community organisations and river groups together to restore and protect these special waterways."
The Charter states: The UK’s stewardship of 85% of the worlds chalk streams has been lamentable with many iconic rivers suffering from over abstraction, habitat destruction, pollution and invasive species. Both our development control and water resource planning processes are woefully inadequate. Chalk aquifers have been over exploited as an easy and cheap source of ready filtered water at the expense of the environment in general and chalk streams in particular. There is an urgent need for abstraction reform and far greater use of reservoir storage of winter run off rather than depleting groundwater sources. Scarce water is wasted as there is little effective demand management. We cannot go on like this.
Click here if you would like to help Stephen make a difference