At the time the problem was publicly denied by various stakeholders, so Wiltshire Wildlife Trust recruited an army of River Monitors to regularly gather information on the state of their local river. I was one of those volunteers and our data has contributed to the acknowledgement there is indeed a problem.
So I was really pleased to see WWF's 50th anniversary garden , Why We Care About Chalk Streams at this year's Hampton Court show. It's the second time my twin passions of gardening and freshwater biology have come together this year :)
The designer, Fiona Stephenson has done her research very well and distilled it into a very clear story within her show garden. A rammed earth wall and the Portland stone entrance depict the aquifer which captures and filters the rain water until it emerges as a clear, sparkling stream. Chalk streams are one of the rarest riverine habitats we have, with a rich meadow flora of species adapted to the alkaline conditions. Jewel-like bright blue azure damselflies were already settling into the garden and giving it their seal of approval when I took this picture.
The 50 spheres are a nod to WWF's anniversary and represent exaggerated raindrops showing us the problem of lack of water is so much larger than the garden holding them. The stream runs through these until it nears the side closest to where I took the picture: then a giant plughole drains the water away and a zone of dead vegetation warns us that this is the consequence should over abstraction be allowed to continue.
Here in the UK, we each use 150 litres of water a day on average, so we are firmly part of this problem. Fiona tells me there is now agreement to provide a 'top up' facility when needed is the solution for the two rivers which were her inspiration: the Itchen and Kennet, but who actually funds this is in dispute. So in the meantime I've attached my pledge to the side of the garden to help address the problem in my own small way.