Chalk Rivers, The State of Englands Chalk Rivers

What needs to be done?

Restore habitats and control run-off

  • We need to develop a programme of river restoration which coordinates work on diffuse pollution, flood risk and aquifer recharge.
  • Planning authorities should take full account of the need to protect chalk rivers, and find ways to enhance them.
  • If we are to tackle diffuse sources of sediments and nutrients, we must give more support and advice to farmers.

Maintain river flows

  • Target flows should be set for all chalk rivers that take account of the needs to protect their ecology.
  • Practical solutions are needed to help restore and protect natural hydrological processes within rivers affected by abstraction.
  • We must actively promote more efficient use of water to help reduce demands by industry and the public.

(c) Dennis Bright
Chalk rivers a magnificent part of our natural and cultural heritage

Improve water quality

  • More rivers should be of very good status for both biological and chemical quality.
  • We will investigate and take action to help overcome sources of enrichment when phosphate levels are exceeded.
  • We need to work together to reduce diffuse pollution from land.

Protect wildlife

  • We need to target our monitoring to check the effectiveness of management actions.
  • Further studies are needed to improve our understanding of the factors affecting plants and animals in chalk rivers.
  • We need to investigate, contain and reduce the impacts of invasive, non-native plants and animals.


Our chalk rivers are still a precious part of the landscape, but they continue to be at risk. The pressures on chalk rivers are many and varied: water abstraction, urban and infrastructure development, effluent discharges, agriculture, land drainage and flood defences. These pressures remain intense. Without careful management, these activities threaten the chalk river resources upon which so much wildlife and many people depend. Several practical examples point the way to successful protection and restoration. Policy-makers, environmental regulators, businesses and local communities must together take up the challenge to restore our chalk rivers. Much work is being undertaken to protect chalk rivers designated for nature conservation; more needs to be done for all chalk rivers. Let us work together to ensure that generations to come are able to enjoy this unique heritage.

How can I find out more?

The State of Englands Chalk Rivers (UK Biodiversity Action Plan Steering Group for Chalk Rivers, 2004) available at or from Environment Agency offices on 08708 506 506.

Chalk rivers, nature conservation and management (English Nature and Environment Agency, 1999), Chalk River Handbook available from English Nature at or on 0870 1214 177.


Diversifying the physical characteristics of the channel improves the ecology
(c) Francis Ware & Thames Water
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