MP calls for conservation of English rivers

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert joined the Worldwide Fund for Nature in a visit to the River Itchen on Friday morning (16 October) to highlight the importance of conserving England’s rivers and chalk streams.

The Shadow Environment Secretary was shown a restoration project at Itchen Stoke Mill, part of WWF's ‘Rivers on the Edge' project which aims to restore rivers in the UK.

WWF are currently focusing on the Itchen, the Kennet and the Lee, three of the country's iconic ‘chalk streams' which are only found in England and parts of Northern France.

These three rivers supply households with millions of litres of water per day and all are classed as "over-abstracted" by the Environment Agency, meaning that more water is removed than is naturally replaced.

By making the public aware of the link between their local rivers and the water they use at home, WWF aim to prevent further damage to the nation's rivers.

Due to an increasing population and the effects of climate change the pressure on our water supply will increase in the years ahead. 

By 2020, demand for water could rise by 5 per cent - an extra 800 million litres a day.  Climate change scenarios predict that by 2050 there could be a 15 per cent reduction in total annual river flow in England and Wales.

The MP was met by David Norman, WWF's director of campaigns, and Dr Tom Le Quesne, the organisation's Freshwater Policy Manager.  They viewed the river with Mill owner Roger Harrison and discussed how to ensure a sustainable future for our most precious natural resource.

Nick Herbert commented: "I hugely enjoyed my visit to this beautiful chalk stream and valued discussing the importance of conserving our rivers with the WWF.

"Rivers like the Itchen provide us with water, but they are also an extremely important part of our landscape and natural heritage.  That's why I've said that we need a holistic approach to water management, one which puts a value on water and ensures that both the water industry and consumers have an incentive to conserve a natural resource which is in short supply."

Nick Herbert reiterated the Conservative Party's proposals for water management in a major speech in London last week, calling for a ‘virtual grid' to improve water supplies and a new labelling scheme to enable consumers to make informed choices when buying appliances that use water.

The MP also met representatives of Waterwise, a group focused on reducing water consumption, at Westminster this week.



Notes for Editors

1. For WWF's website, visit

2. For more information on WWF's ‘Rivers on the Edge' initiative, visit

3. For the full text of Nick Herbert's speech on water management to the Marketforce Water 2009 conference on 15 October 2009, visit [link to follow].

4. The photograph taken during the visit shows (from left to right) Dr Tom Le Quesne, WWF's Freshwater Policy Manager; Nick Herbert MP; Rose Timlett, Freshwater Policy and Programme Officer for WWF; Roger Harrison, owner of the Itchen Stoke Mill; and David Norman, WWF's Director of Campaigns.

Christopher N Howarth