Safeguarding our chalk streams

We’re taking action to restore the health of the precious chalk streams in our region – including the River Lark in Suffolk

Recognised for their clean waters, rich wildlife and aesthetic beauty, chalk streams are internationally rare aquatic environments and need enhanced protection.
 

Only 200 streams are known globally, 85% of which are found in the UK in Southern and Eastern England. 
 
One of the crucial ways in which we’re working to protect the environment is by reducing the amount of water we abstract from sensitive areas by 85 million litres per day by 2025, and working to restore the health of the precious and internationally important chalk streams in our region. 
 
A particular area of focus is the River Lark, in Suffolk, where we’ve agreed with the Environment Agency that by March 2025 we’ll significantly tighten the ‘Hands Off Flow’ level, which means we’ll act sooner and leave more water in the river. This will allow for flows to be protected, particularly at times of drier weather. 
 
To allow this to happen we’re creating a connection to our new strategic grid which will move water from the north of our region, where supply is more abundant, to areas of water shortage.  
 
During this period we’ll also be completing river restoration and river support schemes on rivers within the wider Lark catchment, including the River Linnet. 
 
Working with local stakeholders plays a vital part in unlocking progress and helping us understand regional drivers. Here on the River Lark, we’ve joined forces with local MP Jo Churchill, together with the River Lark Catchment Partnership (for which we have funded a catchment study), the Cam and Ely Ouse Catchment Partnership (Cam-EO) and local landowners, farmers and businesses to protect this unique chalk stream habitat.

Our commitments on chalk streams 

We have ambitious plans over the next five years to enhance the environment of chalk streams across the East of England, including: 
 

  • We will deliver the largest Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP) across the water industry by 2025, which includes investment specifically targeted to protect chalk streams. The five-year programme totals over £800 million and includes a wide array of river restoration, habitat improvement, river support, sustainability reductions, water treatment wetlands and pollution reduction. 
  • We’ve also made a commitment to cap abstraction from all major groundwater aquifers to recent actual levels to prevent any further deterioration. This equates to a reduction of more than 80 million litres per day which is an industry-leading position and made possible through our Water Resources Management Plan 2019 investment. Addressing unsustainable groundwater abstraction is a critical element to the protection of chalk streams. 
  • We will be investing in major capital solutions to allow a significant reduction in abstraction from two critical chalk streams in our region, specifically the River Lark (as above) and River Nar.  
  • We will be creating up to 34 water treatment wetlands, building upon the learnings made from our award-winning low carbon wetland at Ingoldisthorpe in Norfolk, which provided water quality benefits downstream in the River Ingol chalk stream.  
  • We will also conduct investigations on a further 40 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and put interventions in place for those deemed to be the highest risk.