Below is Sir Oliver's Written Parliamentary Question to the Government on improving chalk rivers in Hertfordshire, and the reply that he recieved.
Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what progress her Department has made on improving the quality of chalk rivers in (a) Hertfordshire and (b) England.
A: The Environment Agency is continuing its work with local water companies to improve the quality of rivers in Hertfordshire. In 2014 several watercourses showed improvements in water quality linked to a reduction in polluted surface water outfalls and improved processes at sewage works. Through local engagement with the agriculture sector, the Environment Agency is identifying opportunities to reduce agricultural run-off including fertilizers and pesticides.
Through its Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme, the Environment Agency is also seeking to improve flows in chalk rivers in Hertfordshire. Affinity Water has committed £5 million and the Environment Agency is also committing significant funds to the project.
Across England, a programme of physical habitat restoration is under way on these rivers (including the 11 chalk river Sites of Special Scientific Interest that need restoration). Led jointly by Natural England and the Environment Agency, this programme involves a range of statutory and voluntary sector partners. Since 2011, some 70 kilometres of chalk stream have been improved.
Water company investment has also contributed to substantial reductions in phosphate pollution, to which chalk streams are particularly sensitive, and additional investment is proposed to secure further improvements.
The Environment Agency has changed 46 abstraction licences for ten chalk streams across England. These returned 9.4 million cubic metres year of water back to chalk streams and removed the risk of another 1.6 million cubic metres per year being taken. This is equivalent to the average annual domestic water use of 200,000 people, or the approximate population of Peterborough.