Windrush Against Sewage Pollution’s Peter Hammond and Ashley Smith examine the economic and regulatory implications of water industry privatisation. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.
Jo Bradley from Stormwater Shepherds will consider how to prioritise the problems affecting the chalk streams and how to influence local planning policy and conditions of Planning Consents to deliver protection for the chalk streams. Jo wants to find ways to work with Planning Authorities so that they recognise the risks to the streams, and so that the community, the Planners and developers can find the best way to prevent pollution and to reduce abstraction. Jo will identify the types of development that cause the highest risk and the steps that local people can take to make sure that those risks are managed.
Rosie Pearson, Chairman of the Community Planning Alliance, shares her thoughts on what can be done to give our environment a better deal in the face of development.

Thousands of houses mean more abstraction, increased road run-off and extra sewage for a creaking infrastructure to deal with. What can we do in the face of these challenges to our chalk streams and their valleys?
100 new houses mean about an extra 30 tonnes of sewage a day and the water industry is totally unprepared for the deluge. How can campaigners take advantage of this situation?

Windrush Against Sewage Pollution’s Ashley Smith makes a welcome return to the Chalk Aquifer Alliance to launch our new series of talks on water and housing.
In this webinar, Dr Bailey will be covering the geology of places where HS2 crosses the River Misbourne and the potential implications, using data published by HS2 in their application for a licence to tunnel the Chilterns chalk aquifer. Paul Jennings will have a look at two pollution incidents which have already occurred during 2020, now that have the official reports on them are available.
The UK’s only independent charity campaigning for wild fish, Salmon & Trout Conservation recently published a report on the Environment Agency (EA) that exposed its failure to protect our rivers and their wildlife. In May, they launched a Parliamentary Petition to champion action. The petition calls on Government to give the EA a new mandate for regulation and enforcement, as well as the funds to do a proper job.

CEO, Nick Measham will discuss the key outcomes of the report that highlight why the EA, in its current guise, is not capable of protecting river environments, and the transformation needed to build a regulatory body that puts the environment first.
Last year Charles Rangeley Wilson was good enough to come and speak to us about his Chalkstream First proposals to restore flow to the Chilterns and other chalk streams, principally by abstracting water from our rivers further downstream and pumping it back to supply customers in the upper catchment areas. He was subsequently tasked by Rebecca Pow and Defra to pick up the baton from CRAG and develop a chalk stream restoration strategy.

Charles says ……

After 6 months of hard work, there is now  a consultation draft of the CaBA chalk stream restoration strategy. It is available to view via the Rivers Trust website

 There is no doubt that our chalk streams suffer from excessive groundwater abstraction, too much nutrient from secondary-only sewage works on undesignated streams, too many storm overflows, too many weirs, too many canalised reaches, not enough gravel on the river beds, not enough meanders, not enough trees in and around the river and not enough space for the river to be a river. That’s easy housekeeping. all it requires is political backing and collective effort. 

There has to be a strategy that all parties can sign up to and support. While it might be too radical for some and equally it may be not radical enough for others. However, I do think we have a strategy which, if we act on it, will make a massive difference.

It won’t be the be all and end all. There are hills to climb ahead of more hills beyond. The more hills? Nitrogen levels in the chalk aquifer. Toxins in road-run-off. Climate change. 

He will be joining us for a Q&A  on June 2nd, so sign up for the chance to discuss the plan. If you would like to submit questions in advance, please send them in to us.
Registration below.
Geoff Tombs: Licensed to Spill
May 19 @ 19:00 – 20:00

Chalk Aquifer Alliance event, hosted by Bury Water Meadows Group
This session will offer guidance on obtaining discharge permits from the public register and associated information through Environmental Information Requests.  It will give suggestions as to how this information might be used in the campaign to clean up the UK’s rivers.

Born just after the war in Witney only 200 metres from the river Windrush, Geoff Tombs spent most of his early childhood in or by the river. In his teens he was sent to boarding school at Thame where he came to know the river Thame extensively. A brief sojourn to London in the late 60’s helped him realise he was a country boy at heart so moved back to North Oxfordshire (close to the river Cherwell) and within three years back to Witney. For most of his working life he has been involved in publishing and printing. He was a director at Oxford University Press for 19 years before taking early retirement.
Geoff has always been passionate about nature and the environment and has lived long enough to witness the dramatic deterioration in river quality over those years but only within the last two years has he found a meaningful cause to focus on.
Free, all welcome. Register here in advance and joining instructions will be sent to you.
Theo Thomas: Power, accountability and saving our rivers
May 5 @ 19:00 – 20:00

Chalk Aquifer Alliance event hosted by Bury Water Meadows Group

The regulator says the number of prosecutions for river pollution has dropped to a 5 year low. Water companies are owned by overseas investors and pension funds.
Theo Thomas, London Waterkeeper, will explore how we can make ourselves heard and change the current power imbalance.
Theo Thomas founded London Waterkeeper to be an independent voice for the Capital’s rivers.
He was a BBC news journalist in the East Midlands before combining his passion for the environment with social justice.
Theo worked for Thames21 for 12 years leading its work on water quality, citizen science and sustainable drainage.
He has a vision for a swimmable River Thames which would see thousands of people benefit from improved physical and mental health.
Photos: London Waterkeeper
Free, all welcome. Register in advance here and joining instructions will be sent to you.
Andrew McKenzie: Groundwater flooding on Chalk aquifers; rare events or short memories?
April 21 @ 19:00 – 20:00
Chalk Aquifer Alliance presentation, hosted by Bury Water Meadows Group.

Water levels in the Chalk naturally vary seasonally, and when levels rise high enough water will start to flow in ‘bournes’ and ephemeral streams that are often a characteristic of the Chalk landscape. In particularly wet conditions high groundwater levels can cause more widespread flooding and may cause damage or disruption to local communities. Significant groundwater flooding events occurred in 2000/2001 and 2013/2014 and triggered widespread interest from researchers, stakeholders and the affected communities. But why is the Chalk prone to groundwater flooding, and do the events of the last decades represent something new, or are we just describing something, that has always happened, in a new way? Variability in climate and rainfall in past decades may have given us a false impression of how rare or common groundwater flooding is, and long intervals between flood events mean that the purpose of landscape and infrastructure adaptations can be easily forgotten.
Andy McKenzie is a hydrogeologist with the British Geological Survey based in Wallingford. Although often (pre-COVID) to be found working on BGS projects outside of the UK his responsibilities in the UK include managing BGS’ collection of hydrogeological information, including data on water wells and boreholes and groundwater levels. The data BGS hold are often used to study hydrogeological extremes, such as drought and flood. BGS hydrogeologists publish monthly hydrogeological summaries and forecasts of short and medium trends in water level and have been involved in researching, monitoring and mapping groundwater floods.
Free, all welcome. Register in advance here.
Paul Jennings & Dr Haydon Bailey:
HS2 & Chalk Streams – out of sight out of mind
10th March @ 19:00 – 20:00
Free. All Welcome.
Chairman of the River Chess Association, Paul Jennings, and geologist Dr Haydon Bailey discuss the geology of the Chalk of the Chilterns and the impact of HS2.

Click here to register in advance and joining instructions will be sent to you.
Jo Bradley: Is this the road to Hell: what is road runoff doing to our rivers & streams?
February 24 @ 19:00 – 20:00
Free. All Welcome.
Click here to register in advance and joining instructions will be sent to you.

Jo Bradley will describe the problem of pollution from road runoff and provide some examples of data and polluting outfalls. She will explain what solutions are available and how they should be funded and operated. Then Jo will outline some of the emerging research on the pollution from tyre wear particles and the effect it may be having on wildlife & humans. Jo hopes that by discussing this topic with the CAA, she can understand the impact on Chalk Streams better, and begin to identify priority locations for improvements to be made on the Chalk Streams.

Jo has worked in the field of pollution control for over 30 years, many of them at the Environment Agency in Lancashire. She worked for a treatment device manufacturer for a while, but now leads a new not-for-profit organisation, Stormwater Shepherds UK, which is working to reduce plastic pollution with a particular focus on road runoff and microplastic tyre wear particles. Jo has tried almost everything to improve the regulation of road runoff without much success, so she hopes that by mobilising a gang of like-minded people to shout out about this problem, we might see some changes in the next 5 years.

photo of Jo Bradley
Jo Bradley
@Stormwater Shepherds
Kate Heppell & Paul Jennings: ChessWatch – a co-designed online observatory for the River Chess
December 16 @ 19:00 – 20:00

River Chess is a chalk stream in South East England (UK), under unprecedented pressure from over-abstraction, urbanisation and climate change; consequently the river currently fails to meet good ecological status. The community-led ChessWatch project is designed to raise public awareness of threats to the River Chess and involve the public in river management activities using a sensor network as a platform. In 2018 four water quality sensors were installed in the river to provide stakeholders with real-time water quality data (15-minute intervals) to support catchment management activities. The dataset from the project is intended to support future decision-making in the catchment as part of the five-year ‘Smarter Water Catchments’ approach run by Thames Water.
This presentation will review the successes and drawbacks of the ChessWatch project to date and examine the challenges of linking the data collected by the project to policy and practice in a catchment with multiple stakeholder groups. Kate Heppell and Paul Jennings will present the results of a participatory mapping exercise held at local community events to capture the public use of, and concerns for, the river revealing concerns for low flows and water quality issues linked to abstraction and runoff. They will show how dissolved oxygen, temperature, turbidity, chlorophyll-a and tryptophan measurements made by the sensors are enabling local stakeholders to better understand the threats to the river arising from urban runoff and changing rainfall patterns, and they examine the challenges of data presentation, sharing and usage in an urbanised catchment with high water demand and multiple conflicting interests.

Professor Kate Heppell is a researcher at the School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London. Kate specialises in understanding the linkages between hydrology and biogeochemical processes in terrestrial and aquatic environments such as rivers, wetlands and lowland peatlands. She has worked extensively in chalk stream environment to improve understanding of the relationships between groundwater and surface water; and the controls on flow, sediment transport and water quality.
Paul Jennings is chairman of the River Chess Association.
Free, all welcome. Register here and joining instructions will be sent to you.
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