A Chalk Aquifer Alliance event hosted by Bury Water Meadows Group
River Chess is a chalk stream in South East England (UK), under unprecedented pressure from over-abstraction, urbanisation and climate change; consequently the river currently fails to meet good ecological status. The community-led ChessWatch project is designed to raise public awareness of threats to the River Chess and involve the public in river management activities using a sensor network as a platform. In 2018 four water quality sensors were installed in the river to provide stakeholders with real-time water quality data (15-minute intervals) to support catchment management activities. The dataset from the project is intended to support future decision-making in the catchment as part of the five-year ‘Smarter Water Catchments’ approach run by Thames Water.
This presentation reviews the successes and drawbacks of the ChessWatch project to date and examine the challenges of linking the data collected by the project to policy and practice in a catchment with multiple stakeholder groups. Kate Heppell and Paul Jennings present the results of a participatory mapping exercise held at local community events to capture the public use of, and concerns for, the river revealing concerns for low flows and water quality issues linked to abstraction and runoff. They show how dissolved oxygen, temperature, turbidity, chlorophyll-a and tryptophan measurements made by the sensors are enabling local stakeholders to better understand the threats to the river arising from urban runoff and changing rainfall patterns, and they examine the challenges of data presentation, sharing and usage in an urbanised catchment with high water demand and multiple conflicting interests.
Professor Kate Heppell is a researcher at the School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London. Kate specialises in understanding the linkages between hydrology and biogeochemical processes in terrestrial and aquatic environments such as rivers, wetlands and lowland peatlands. She has worked extensively in chalk stream environment to improve understanding of the relationships between groundwater and surface water; and the controls on flow, sediment transport and water quality.
Paul Jennings is chairman of the River Chess Association.