More news...

Dec 31, 2017
Category: Conservation
Posted by: Kathryn

Restoration works to a tributary of the Chess are planned for early 2018.

Nov 21, 2017
Category: Abstraction
Posted by: Kathryn

River Chess groundwater levels at record lows, a dry river in Chesham for a year, but no water restrictions from Affinity Water.

Sep 18, 2017
Category: General
Posted by: Kathryn

A public River Chess forum will take place in support of the World Wildlife Fund's 'Nature Needs You' campaign.

Jul 12, 2017
Category: Drought
Posted by: Kathryn

With groundwater levels now exceptionally low, the river in Chesham is dry as far as Lord's Mill, Waterside.

Latest News

RCA Demands Action as Chess Flows Dwindle

Nov 21, 2017

Category: Abstraction
Posted by: Kathryn

The water that provides the flow for the River Chess comes from groundwater sitting in the chalk aquifer under and around the Chess Valley. Groundwater is recharged through Autumn and Winter rainfall during the months of October to March.

On 10th November, Affinity Water issued an update on water resources for this region, reporting them as being "Below Average" and "Low". In stark contrast, the Environment Agency (EA) observation boreholes that provide the data for groundwater levels for the Chess catchment at Ashley Green and Amersham Road both recorded the lowest October groundwater levels on record (records began in 1987 and 1992, respectively). The EA use slightly different terminology, but in their October Water Situation Report the Chess catchment is showing "exceptionally low" with other catchments in the region at "notably low".

The message from Affinity to its customers was "Please save water". However well intended this message might be, the River Chess Association believes the company are understating the seriousness of the situation and have not received an explanation from Affinity Water.

Thames Water, who also abstract water from the Chess catchment have been more forthcoming and have explained that under their Drought Management Plan there is little they can do for the Chess despite the record low groundwater levels. This highlights how inadequate the Drought Management Plans are in respect of the River Chess.

We would hope the EA are talking to both Thames Water and Affinity Water asking them to take voluntary action to reduce abstraction from the Chess catchment considering the depleted state of the groundwater aquifer.

Dry River Chess in Chesham

Above: The dry river bed in Chesham

The winter of 2016/17 was very dry and we saw very little groundwater recharge leading to the River Chess in Chesham having been dry now for over a year. This October, rainfall was only 33% of the average for the month, compounding an already desperately low position. If you take the EA groundwater levels we should have seen water restrictions in place. We have asked Affinity Water why this has not happened and for them to explain the difference between their position and that of the EA regarding groundwater levels, but as yet we have had no answers. All these issues could be equally applied to the Rivers Misbourne, Gade, Ver and Colne.

Flow rates downstream of Chesham are now declining. Low rainfall and water company abstraction add up to a dry river. If Affinity Water are not prepared to issue water restrictions for the Chess catchment they should consider turning off their abstraction pumps at Alma Road, Chartridge and Chorleywood to stop the river drying up.

Paul Jennings, RCA Chairman, says, "In my view, permitted abstraction levels in the light of changed weather patterns are now unsustainable and if we want healthy chalk streams then water companies must be required to find alternative sources of water for their customers".