South West Water loses 127 million litres a day through leakage. It has proved difficult to relate this figure to the water customers draw from their taps (see Owl’s previous discussion on this). At best it is 27%, at worst 37%. Either figure is way too high.
Bear this in mind as you read this. – Owl
Zhara Simpson www.devonlive.com
Following the driest summer in nearly 30 years, experts are warning that another hot dry spell could see drought conditions return this year, despite winter rainfall replenishing most water levels across the country. Devon is still in drought due the lack of rainfall so far this year.
In a meeting held on February 10, The Environment Agency (EA) and National Drought Group (NDG) members discussed how risks to water resources remain, despite the significant improvements following five consecutive months of above average rainfall. Two of the Environment Agency’s areas that remain in ‘drought’ status include East Anglia and Devon, the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall.
Although the areas flagged are ‘recovering’, experts say there has only been seven percent rainfall this month. They said that water is ‘precious’ and are asking people not to ‘waste it’. It’s also reported that members are preparing for the ‘worst case scenario’ of another hot and dry summer which could lead to temporary use bans and taking additional water from the environment.
As of the beginning of February, total reservoir capacity across the country is at 88 percent. This compares with 49 percent at the end of September 2022, when reservoirs were at their lowest following the drought through summer.
The NDG, made up of senior decision-makers from the Environment Agency, government, the Met Office, water companies and key farming and environmental groups, said that despite taking winter readiness actions, increasing output and undertaking network improvements over winter, further steady rainfall will be needed to ensure the nation’s water reservoirs are in a good position ahead of the warmer, drier, summer months.
Members are planning for the worst case scenario of another hot, dry spell this summer and are managing water resources to reduce the risk of drought measures – such as temporary use bans and taking additional water from the environment – being required again this year.
The natural environment continues to take time to recuperate from the impacts of last summer and the Environment Agency is also focusing ongoing efforts on monitoring how well fish and invertebrates are recovering from drought.
The EA South West said on Twitter on February 14: “#Devon, #Cornwall and the #IslesofScilly are still in drought. The recent dry spell means that so far this month, rainfall is only 7% of long term average. Water is a precious resource – please don’t waste it.”
John Leyland, the EA Executive Director and NDG chair, said the low rainfall in recent weeks highlights the “importance of remaining vigilant” despite water levels returning to normal across parts of the country.
He said: “While most water levels have returned to normal across much of the country, low rainfall in recent weeks highlights the importance of remaining vigilant.
“We cannot rely on the weather alone, which is why the Environment Agency, water companies and our partners are taking action to ensure water resources are in the best possible position both for the summer and for future droughts”.
He added: “As ever, it is important that we all continue to use water carefully to protect not just our water resources; but our precious environment and the wildlife that depends on it”.
Members of the NDG heard that:
- Water companies, retailers and regulators must learn from the response to the 2022 drought and take forward improvements for managing and responding to future droughts.
- Water companies have continued to maximise opportunities to improve their water supplies over winter; identifying new sources of water; ensuring sources are operating as they should be and reducing leakage. The Environment Agency have determined additional drought permits to help refill reservoirs and improve water supplies ahead of spring.
- The farming sector is working to improve drought resilience, to ensure water availability for the short and long term, helping overall food security. The Environment Agency is working closely with the Rural Payments Agency to ensure abstraction licences associated with reservoir grant applications are determined on time.
- All sectors are now undertaking precautionary planning in the event that hot, dry weather returns in the summer, and continue to work closely together to support water supplies across the country.
England is experiencing more extreme weather more often. Over the last month, the EA has also been responding to flooding in parts of the country, following heavy rainfall over December and January. The EA is clear that planning for increasingly extreme weather is essential in order for everyone to be prepared for the impacts these events cause – both drought and flooding.