Water warning - drought may be on its way

PARTS of Britain including Comet country may face the worst drought since 1976 this summer.

That warning from the Environment Agency is being backed up by Veolia Water which supplies customers locally.

It is preparing for the prospect of a drought as low rainfall continues to take its toll on water levels.

The potential for a drought has increased due to a second consecutive dry autumn and winter – seasons crucial for the company to refill its water supplies.

Water resources manager Mike Pocock said: “The last 18 months have been exceptionally dry with rainfall patterns consistent to those seen during times of drought.


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“This autumn and winter has only had 60 per cent of normal rainfall to replenish our water supplies. This is further compounded by only 65 per cent over the same period during the previous year, so we really are seeing challenging times.

“Even with the wettest weather over the next few months we will not see conditions improve hugely for the spring, and that’s why we want to ask our customers to help us prepare now for a dry summer, and avoid possible restrictions.”

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These could include bans on the use of hosepipes for washing cars and watering gardens. The last time these were imposed was in 2006.

Veolia continues to keep leakage under control with levels now at an all-time low.

“We’re currently on track to meet the leakage target set by our regulator, Ofwat. However, we are still very keen for our customers to continue to report leaks. Even more so in the colder weather, a time when we tend to experience more bursts,” added Mr Pocock.

Trevor Bishop, head of resources at the Environment, said it is “planning for the worst”. The East of England has had its driest spell in 90 years.

The Centre for Hydrology and Ecology says that average rainfall so far this winter was the lowest since 1972.

Over the past three years, North East Herts MP Oliver Heald has campaigned for action to be taken to tackle the major problem of rivers drying up in chalk lands. Particularly at risk in his constituency are the River Beane which runs east of Stevenage and the Mimram which runs through Whitwell.

On the threat of a drought, he said: “It is worrying about the water. Over the next few years the country has to get used to the idea there will be less water. It will get worse because of global warming.”

Recalling that parts of Eastern England are as dry as the Sahara Desert in Africa, he said that the local region will have to look at bringing water in from other parts of the country such as Northern England and Wales where there are surpluses of the precious commodity.

FACTBOX

Veolia Water takes 60 per cent of its water supply from underground aquifers (a natural underground reservoir). The remaining 40 per cent of water supplies come from surface water sources the River Thames and the Grafham Water reservoir.

Underground water aquifers are replenished with rainfall between October and March.

Rainfall during spring and summer months tends to be absorbed by natural vegetation or it evaporates - very rarely does rainfall in this period replenish underground sources.

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