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Leader: Shortage of water hitting crisis point

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Farmers already know about the creeping crisis that is stealthily engulfing Britain. Now the rest of us are beginning to wake up to it.

Farmers already know about the creeping crisis that is stealthily engulfing Britain.

Now the rest of us are beginning to wake up to it.

The recent warm, sunny spell has been very pleasant. It is part of a trend which has seen meagre rainfall, much less than would normally be expected. According to the Environment Agency, Shropshire's rivers have half as much water flowing through them as in the great drought of 1976.

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Flows in the River Severn are the second lowest on record for this time of year.

Look at Shropshire's rivers and you can see the problem for yourself. The pleasure cruises by the Ironbridge river boat are in danger because of the risk of running aground. The retreating rivers are affecting fish stocks. It is a vicious cycle, because parched land means more demands on river water to compensate for the lack of rain.

It is going to take a prolonged wet spell to get things back to what counts for normal. It is not, though, just a matter of the weather. Shropshire's rivers, big and small, are being tapped into as water resources on a large scale. Some are a shadow of their former glory because of the level of water abstraction which has helped turn small rivers into mere brooks and streams.

Throw a warm, dry spell into the equation, and this summer we shall see plenty of them reduced to a trickle, with dramatic losses of aquatic life and knock-on effects through nature's fragile food chain.

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The Environment Agency is planning to release groundwater and reservoir water into the Severn to increase flows.

Britain's traditional self-image as a rainswept country has meant that Britons have mocked the idea of water shortage. But if we can no longer rely on rain, and must learn to manage water like any other precious resource.

See also:

  • Rain at last as Shropshire river levels lowest in 30 years

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