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Film posted online to show effect of drought on River Chess
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has made a video to warn Rickmansworth residents about a "water crisis" threatening local rivers.
The Living Rivers project was set up to protect the region's chalk rivers, including the Chess, from drying out completely due to drought. A short film about the project has been released on video sharing website youtube.
After two dry winters, the South East of England has been left with less water per person than Kenya, Morocco and Egypt, yet in Hertfordshire each person uses on average 200 litres.
Charlie Bell, Living Rivers Officer at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, says: "Sadly, many rivers are under increasing threat because there is simply not enough water in them.
"To provide our water supply, a huge amount of water is pumped from the groundwater that feeds these rivers.
"Because of this, despite the wet spring and summer we’ve had, many rivers are drying up completely or experiencing water levels just too low to support the animals and plants that live in them."
The county's chalk streams are extremely rare, with only 200 such rivers in the entire world, most of them in England.
Ms Bell added: "We made the film because the Wildlife Trust believes it’s vital to raise awareness of the value of our chalk streams, and the impact our water use has on them.
"The film also contains some water saving tips which, if we all did them, would have a huge impact. Every litre we save is an extra litre that can remain in our rivers."
Chalk streams are important because when rainwater soaks through chalk it becomes alkaline, rich in nutrients, and stays a constant temperature all year round.
This habitat supports insects, water plants, fish, birds and mammals including water voles and otters.
Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel The Wind in the Willows was based on the wildlife found in an English chalk stream.
Tim Hill, conservation manager at the trust, said: "Hertfordshire’s chalk rivers have international ecological significance, yet the majority of them have a declining biodiversity due to low flows, pollution and neglect. Restoring these incredibly rare habitats is now an urgent priority."
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is a charity with about 22,000 members, which manages more than 40 nature reserves, covering 2,000 acres.
The Living Rivers project will work with landowners, land managers, local communities and volunteers to co-ordinate restoration plans for chalk streams and other rivers identified as priority habitats.
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