17. R. Chess Low Flows Investigation

Aim: Manage flow

Water body: River Chess
Project description

An investigation led by the Environment Agency, is currently being carried out into the possible role of abstraction in the persistent low flows impacting the headwaters of the R. Chess.

The R. Chess has traditionally been seen as an example of a health chalk stream. Historically, the river, even in its headwaters, supported a range of industry from milling to watercress growing and at one time supported several trout fisheries, right up to the Bury lake in Chesham, close to its spring sources.  However, since the Second World Wwar, flows its upper reaches have undergone gradual decline. This trend has become more marked since the early 1990's and the headwaters, well below what would have, at one time, been considered to be the perennial head of the river, have regularly dried up.  While increased frequency of droughts, resulting from climate change, has been identified as a major factor, abstraction in the upper Chess catchment, which increased by 50% in the last 10 years, may also be a factor.  The Environment Agency, Thames Water and Affinity Water are currently investigating what role abstraction is playing in the increased frequency of drying in the upper river. The final report, due in Summer 2018, will also include an options appraisal.

Project lead: Environment Agency
Project partners: Affinity Water, Chilterns Chalk Streams Project, River Chess Association, Thames Water
Contact for more information: Marta Pluta
Project start: 2015
Project end: 2025

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting. From an original concept by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.