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First Chalkstream Champion Award Presented

22.05.14

chalkstream champion affinity water presentation

The first Chalkstream Champion Award was presented to Richard Bienfait, Chief Executive of Affinity Water, at a ceremony on the River Chess in Hertfordshire for committing to reduce water abstraction dramatically on the nearby rivers Mimram, Beane and Ver, which have in the past often stopped flowing completely.  The Award was presented to Affinity Water by Charles Walker MP, who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group, and Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal.
  
The Awards have been created by the Chalkstream Charter which is a collaboration between the Angling Trust, The Rivers Trust, Salmon & Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts and WWF-UK to campaign for better protection for England’s chalk streams.  England has 85% of the world’s 200 chalk streams; a unique type of river that is abundant in insect, fish and bird life.  They are some of the most highly-prized stretches of river for fishing and attract visitors from around the world.  However, nearly all of England’s chalk streams are suffering from endemic pollution, groundwater abstraction and habitat damage. The Charter aims to drive forward restoration of these rare and precious rivers.

After being presented with the award, Richard Bienfait was given his first fly fishing lesson by Paul Jennings from the River Chess Association.  Although he didn’t manage to catch a trout, he enjoyed the experience and was keen to try fishing again soon.

Richard Bienfait, Chief Executive of Affinity Water said: “I am delighted to receive this award and to have had an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the River Chess.  We are working with our customers and communities to leave more water in the environment.  This award demonstrates our commitment to protecting these precious chalk streams.

Charles Walker MP said: “Richard and Affinity Water are to be congratulated for taking a serious and considered approach to their environmental responsibilities. It is to be hoped that other water companies now sit up and take notice of the good things going on in and around Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire”.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “Normally we spend a lot of time highlighting the failure of water companies, regulators and the government to protect the water environment.  It is a delight to be able to present an award to a water company for doing the right thing by helping over-abstracted chalk streams flow once again and bringing life to back to Hertfordshire’s river valleys.  We hope that this award will inspire other companies to take up the challenge of restoring our rivers to good health, for the benefit of people and wildlife.”

Paul Jennings, Chairman Of the River Chess Association said: “The essential issue for all chalk rivers is flow, without water all other problems such as pollution, invasive species and loss of habitat are irrelevant.  This first step taken by Affinity is important and we hope it will lead to similar initiatives on other threatened chalk rivers.”

Charlie Bell, Hertfordshire Living Rivers Officer with Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said:  “This is fantastic news for some of Hertfordshire’s most threatened chalk streams such as the Mimram, Beane and Ver.  It’s great that Affinity have responded to the concerns of local people and environmental organisations.   When flows return to a more ecologically sustainable level, these rare and precious rivers still face many other problems which we need to tackle before they can be truly healthy again.  We look forward to continuing to work closely with Affinity via our Living Rivers project to help improve Hertfordshire’s chalk streams.”

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