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    • Chris Manning explains about an exciting new Brighton Chalk Management Partnership (CHaMP) Project.........

      Out of sight, under the Brighton and Lewes Downs and the city itself, spanning between the River Ouse in the east and River Adur in the west, sits a huge aquifer – a chalk sponge that stores millions of litres of groundwater.

      The Downs behind Brighton & Hove act like a huge sponge for water

      The Downs behind Brighton & Hove act like a huge sponge for water

      The chalk aquifer is of huge importance. It provides Brighton & Hove and the surrounding area with almost all of its drinking water. Southern Water operate 14 groundwater abstraction sources across the aquifer which together can provide a maximum total annual volume of 38,000 million litres of water a year, with a daily maximum of 189 million litres. To put that in context, that’s approximately 15,200 Olympic size swimming pools a year and 76 Olympic size swimming pools a day!

      The chalk aquifer and associated landscape also sustains many rare and nationally important habitats – for example high quality chalk streams issuing from the scarp slope, large wetland habitats such as the Lewes Brooks, and crucial farmland bird habitats.

      However, the aquifer is not without its pressures. With regards to water resources/abstraction, it has to be very carefully managed to maintain the fine balance between the needs for public water supply and the environment.  

      There are also threats to the quality of the groundwater thought to arise from agriculture, including fertilisers, pesticides and other runoff, and urban pressures including leaky sewers, highway runoff and industrial sites.

      Winter cover crops can help reduce diffuse pollution into groundwater

      Winter cover crops can help reduce diffuse pollution into groundwater c. Harriet Dennison

      To help address these pressures an exciting new project is underway developed in partnership between local farmers, the South Downs National Park Authority, Southern Water, Environment Agency, Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere Project, Brighton & Hove City Council, Natural England, University of Brighton and the RSPB to protect and improve the quality of groundwater in the Brighton Chalk, to ensure it remains a sustainable resource – the Brighton Chalk Management Partnership (ChaMP) Project. In many cases, management to protect the ground water supply will also benefit farmland birds and other wildlife, providing great double benefits.  Watch this space for updates and links with the work of the SDFBI across the South Downs National Park!

      Here is a link to a short film explaining more about the ‘hidden resource’ that is groundwater: http://www.thehiddenresource.com/.