Save our Chalk Streams!

The Government says our rivers won’t be healthy until 2063 but our chalk streams can't wait 40 years. How old will you be in 2063?

Help us save our chalk streams! Tell your MP to champion our chalk streams by supporting new, bespoke legal protections.

Home for salmon, otters, water voles and kingfishers, chalk streams are England's equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon Rainforest. A truly special habitat that we need to protect for generations to come. 

The government must act now if chalk streams are going to stand a chance of recovery while we are still here to see it. 

We are calling for a new, pioneering, bespoke protection for all Chalk Streams, as recommended by the Chalk Stream Strategy.

With these new protections, the government can make polluters pay, hold water companies to account and make sure England's rarest habitat and richest chalk streams are clean, healthy, brimming with life and buzzing with activity for generations to come.

Why are chalk streams special? >

With only around 220 existing worldwide, these cool, fresh, oxygen-rich waters provide the perfect habitat for rare British species like water vole, southern chalk stream Atlantic salmon, brown trout, southern damselfly, water crowfoot, and white-clawed crayfish. 

Over 85% of the 220 chalk streams in the world are found in the South of England, truly one of the rarest habitats on the planet. They are also incredibly rich in life; home to more species of plants than any other English river and include species found nowhere else. They are England's equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon Rainforest: a truly special natural heritage and our responsibility. 

How are chalk streams under threat? >

England's rarest habitat and richest chalk streams should be clear, and sparkling with vitality. Instead they are becoming clogged and choked by toxic chemicals, fertilisers and sewage. Drought and over consumption are draining the life out of rivers, with devastating consequences for the wildlife and people that rely on them.

Healthy rivers are vital for our water supply, our food security and our ability to withstand a changing climate. We can't allow the abuse of these vital life support systems to continue.

Find out more about pollution

Find out more about drought and abstraction

Do any chalk streams currently have protections?  >

Currently only 11 out of the 220 British chalk streams have any legal protections as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). These are Hampshire’s Test, Somerset’s Frome, Dorset’s Bere Stream, Wiltshire and Berkshire’s Kennet, Norfolk’s Nar, Yorkshire’s Hull headwaters and Greater London’s Crane. 

While only 4 are protected as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), a higher level of protection, these are the Hampshire and Wiltshire‘s Avon, Hampshire’s Itchen, Norfolk’s Wensum and Berkshire’s Lambourn. But while these protections are helping to keep these rivers in a better state than chalk streams that are not protected, we need new stronger protections specifically designed for our chalk streams.  

The Government said that out rivers and streams won't be healthy until 2063. Why? >

Currently, only 16% of waters in England are in good ecological health and none meet chemical standards. Staggeringly, this means not one of England's chalk steams, rivers, lakes, estuaries or seas are in an overall healthy condition. Even the 16% that are in good ecological health are not in good health overall because of the chemicals they contain.

Previous targets required by the Government to get our rivers in to good overall health by 2015 and 2021 have been missed. 

The Government's new 'river basin management plans' that launched in 2022 stated that the Government predicts that all of our rivers and streams won't be in good overall health until 2063. That's four decades away!

You can find out more about these plans here.

How will legal protections help our chalk streams? >

We are demanding new legal status to give chalk streams the chance of recovery. This must protect them from more damage by pollution, water being removed and other pressures. It also must drive investment in restoring our chalk streams to return them to good ecological and chemical health. 

This protection should: 

  • Force water companies to invest in sewage-treatment works on all chalk streams.
  • Prevent water companies taking too much water from chalk streams, especially during times of drought. 
  • Give them planning protections to provide green buffers around streams and ensure developers build homes in a way that doesn't harm our streams.
  • Drive investment into restoration of our chalk streams, for example through the Local Nature Recovery Strategies, environmental farming subsidy schemes and Biodiversity Net Gain.  
  • Increase monitoring and enforcement by government agencies on our chalk streams.