The Chess is at Risk
Chesham is lucky to be the birth place of the River Chess, a rare and beautiful chalk stream that we can all enjoy. The Chess is also home to fantastic wildlife, such as brown trout and water voles, and attracts exciting visitors such as osprey.
The beautiful River Chess at Town Bridge
However, the River Chess is under threat. Water is abstracted (taken) from the river catchment to provide local homes and businesses with water and our greed for water is placing a huge amount of pressure on the fragile chalk stream habitat. The Environment Agency has declared the River Chess to be “over-abstracted”, meaning that too much water is taken from it. There is only enough water in the river to meet environmental needs for around 35% of the time in an average year. This means that our wildlife and our river are being damaged.
Why Has This Happened?
99% of the water taken from the Chess catchment (meaning the surrounding area where rainfall drains through to supply the river) goes to supply water to the public, most of it to homes in the Chesham area. And in the Chesham area we use far more water per person than most other parts of the country. The average person in Chesham who lives in a property without a water meter uses a staggering 176 litres of water every day! The UK average is much lower at 148 litres, but we should be aiming at the government target of 130 litres.
Add to this the fact that the South East of England receives 50% less rainfall on average than the rest of the UK and you can see why we have a problem! Things will only get worse as our population increases – we are expecting 650 more houses in Chesham alone by 2026 - and all of them will need water.
What Can We Do?
There are many things that we can do to take the pressure off the river. Visit our Save Water to Save the Chess page for tips and ideas.
Think before you turn on the tap
With thanks to the Environment Agency and Affinity Water for water usage data.