Smarter Water Catchment

The River Chess is one of six rivers chosen by Thames Water to pilot their new Smarter Water Catchment initiative.

This ground-breaking initiative brings together key organisations and community groups to address issues on a catchment scale and aims to restore one of the Chilterns’ finest chalk streams to health. The Chilterns Chalk Streams project is a key partner in this initiative.

Chilterns ANOB

Landscape-scale solutions

The project is looking to taking a ‘systems-based’ view of the environment, addressing multiple challenges and delivering landscape-scale solutions that make the most of bigger opportunities to aid nature’s recovery. The work is being led by stakeholders to make sure it reflects local needs and considers local knowledge. Over the next 10 years, the project’s steering group will be looking at six specific themes:

  1. Improving water quality
  2. Managing flow
  3. Improving wildlife corridors
  4. Managing Invasive Non-Native Species
  5. Working together
  6. Involving people
River Chess Smarter Water Catchment Plan

Progress so far

  • Fenced 800 m section of the Little Chess to reduce poaching from cattle and increase vegetation and suitable habitat for water voles.
  • Launched a suite of citizen-science initiatives and training to monitor water quality; currently have 40 members of the public engaged.
  • Created a baseline document called the State of the River Chess, showing where we are now and where we need to get to.
  • Increased the capacity of water quality monitoring through the deployment of two new sensors, which monitor nitrate, phosphate, oxygen levels, velocity, turbidity, pH, temperature, ammonia, dissolved organic matter, and more.
  • Employed four members of staff: Project Coordinator, Chess Farming Officer, Engagement Officer and Secondment of Professor Kate Heppell from Queen Mary University of London.
  • Through the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, engaged with farmers to complete surveys of agricultural land. This work will be continued by the Chess Farming Officer.
  • Hosted Masters students on the Chess, who are collecting and analysing data on chalk streams.
  • Started a River Restoration project at Restore Hope Latimer, which aims to create optimum habitat for water vole population expansion.
  • Lobbied government on the plight of chalk streams.
  • Identified priority habitats within the Chess Catchment.


This initiative is being funded by Thames Water and delivered by a mix of partners from statutory agencies, non-governmental organisations, water companies and academic institutions – all with an interest in the welfare of the Chess: Affinity Water, Buckinghamshire Council, Chilterns Chalk Streams Project,Chilterns Conservation Board (CCB), Chiltern Society, Environment Agency, Hertfordshire & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Queen Mary University of London, River Chess Association, Sarratt Parish Council, and Thames Water.