Teaching children about chalk streams

Posted: 29 May 2024

Chalk stream surveying in CambridgeTo raise awareness of our region’s precious chalk streams, we visited primary schools in Cambridge to teach young pupils about these rare habitats and what we can all do to look after them.

What are chalk streams?

Chalk streams are beautiful rivers that are fed from underground water that rises through the chalk aquifer – the same source of water that supplies the water in our taps in Cambridge.

Characterised by their constant water temperature throughout the year, they are home to a range of plants and animals including water voles and kingfishers.

There are just 200 chalk streams in the world and the majority can be found in the South of England.

Our education offer

As part of our team’s recent visit, groups of children were taken on field trips to survey some of the area’s chalk streams and understand the threats that exist to these ecosystems.

Many of the chalk streams in England are unhealthy and are at risk of drying up in the summer due to increased water demand. Chalk streams are also being harmed by increased pollution and the threat of invasive non-native species to local wildlife.


The children were shown different parts of a chalk stream and saw some of the wildlife that live in the rivers.

Whilst we were able to identify some pressures on the streams, we were fortunate enough to spot some species indicating that the chalk stream visited is becoming healthier, such as a caddisfly. Students developed key field study skills spotting river species, species identification, environmental quality surveys and field sketches.

Over the last two years, more than 10,000 students across our supply areas have been taught about water efficiency, the water cycle and why we should be mindful of our water use.


Our education programme links to various subjects on the national curriculum, including science, literacy and geography.

To find out more about our education offer, and see some of our online learning resources, click here

What are we doing to preserve chalk streams?

As set out in our Water Resources Management Plan, we are gradually reducing the amount of water we take from the chalk aquifer to leave more for our region’s chalk streams.

When river flows are low, we stop taking water from sensitive locations to provide support to flows.

In the long term, we are investing in new water sources that do not rely on the chalk aquifer, which will allow the chalk streams in our area to return to more natural flows.

To find out more about how we manage our water resources, click here