UK in renewed drought warnings despite Spring deluge

As Britons bemoan continued wet weather the country has been put on warning to conserve water amid fears of summer shortages.

Experts have urged water companies and individuals to focus on preserving water now to get ahead of future dry spells, after the country experienced contrasting weather bouts over the past couple of months.

At a meeting of the National Drought Group (NDG), chaired by Environment Agency executive director John Leyland, the group highlighted the importance of not relying on the weather alone to keep drought at bay.

The NDG said whilst much of England is in a better position than last year, two Environment Agency areas remain in drought – East Anglia and Cornwall. South West Water will also introduce an additional temporary use ban on hosepipes in parts of Devon on 25 April. The UK experienced the driest February in 30 years followed by the wettest March in 40 years.

The country’s National Drought Group – made up of senior decision-makers from the Environment Agency, government, the Met Office, water companies and key farming and environmental groups – said are preparing for the worst case scenario of another hot, dry spell this summer and are managing water resources to reduce the risk of drought measures accordingly.

As of the beginning of April, total reservoir capacity across the country was at 94%. This compares with 49% at the end of September 2022, when reservoirs were at their lowest following the drought through summer. Reservoir stocks at the end of March increased at all but two reservoirs.

The group said water companies must reduce leakage, decrease water consumption and find new ways of being resilient to drought.

The NDG has drawn up actions which could be taken with the farming sector to improve drought resilience, secure future water availability and support food security. This builds on commitments in the Plan for Water such as a further £10 million through the Water Management Grant to fund on-farm reservoirs.

Environment Agency executive director and NDG chair John Leyland said: “Whilst water levels have improved across most of the country, a dry February followed by a particularly wet March has highlighted that we cannot rely on the weather alone to preserve our most precious resource ahead of summer.

“This is why the Environment Agency, water companies and our partners continue to take action to ensure water resources are in the best possible position both for the summer and for future droughts.

“We all owe it to the environment and wildlife to continue to use water carefully to protect our precious rivers, lakes and groundwater.”

Water minister Rebecca Pow said: “The recent rainfall came as a relief to many people across the country, but we should approach the improving drought situation cautiously.

“The growing pressures on our water network mean it is more important than ever that we take measures to increase our resilience to drought and ease the pressures on our water supply.

“Through our Plan for Water, we are ensuring key water supply infrastructure such as reservoirs can be built more quickly, helping increase our resilience to drought for the long-term. At the same time, we expect water companies to step up their own efforts to adapt to changing weather patterns and tackle leakage, to better deliver for customers.”