“It’s not unusual to be dealing with drought and flooding conditions in the same day”

The River Chess is a Chiltern chalk stream rising just above the industrial town of Chesham in Buckinghamshire. It flows for 10 miles where it joins the River Colne which in turn joins the River Thames at Runnymede. This river once supported countless watercress beds and 4 major water mills in Chesham, the river was the reason Chesham became a town. Today the river in Chesham is dry. This is the 5th time the river has dried up 7 years. Over that period it has been dry for more time than it has flowed. With changing weather patterns we are seeing extended dry periods but equally some extreme intensive rainfall. It is not unusual to be dealing with drought and flooding conditions in the same day. Added to this we are seeing an increase in abstraction to meet public demand. Since 2000 we have seen a 52% increase in abstraction. This water is being taken from the aquifer that also feeds the River Chess. So dry weather and increasing demand dries up our river and a valuable and rare habitat. We need to see measures to manage water demand to reduce consumption, metering and higher prices can do this, we also urgently need to see an alternative source of water. Here we support the Thames Water new reservoir project at Abingdon. This would take pressure of our iconic chalk rivers, not just the sake of the Chess but also the Wye, Misbourne, Ver, Beane, Mimram, Gade and Bulbourne just to mention a few. Action is needed now and OFWAT should be leading the charge.