Shropshire Star

Water companies should prepare drought plans now – Environment Agency

Areas across England could fall into drought this summer despite above-average rainfall in April, the National Drought Group warned.

Reservoir with little water

The UK cannot rely on weather alone to secure a reliable water supply, the Environment Agency (EA) has said, which is telling water companies to prepare drought plans now.

After the driest February for 30 years, followed by the wettest March for 40 years, the country is still recovering from last year’s hot weather.

Parts of East Anglia as well as Devon and Cornwall remain in drought status but are improving following above-average rainfall throughout April.

The National Drought Group (NDG), which is composed of the EA, the Met Office, the Government, water companies as well as farming and environmental groups, said collaboration is needed to ensure there is enough water for people, agriculture, wildlife and the environment this summer.

EA chief executive and NDG chair John Curtin said: “This spring’s wet weather continues to improve water availability.

“But increasingly extreme climate shocks, such as last summer’s hot and dry spell, can change everything in an instant.

“We need to be better prepared for future climate-driven drought, as well as learn from what we have already experienced.

“That is why Government, regulators, water companies and all water users will continue to work together, using the latest science and best practice, to ensure our water resources are prepared for more extreme events in the future.”

The NDG, which met on Wednesday, said the environment will take time to recuperate from last year’s drought and that the EA is monitoring the recovery of fish and invertebrates.

As of May 16, reservoir capacity across England stood at 92%, compared with 49% at the end of September, when they were at their lowest.

Almost all river flows are normal or higher for this time of year, the NDG said.

England is experiencing more extreme weather as the Earth’s temperature continues to rise and disrupt traditional climate patterns, with some regions seeing drought and floods at the same time.

More hot and dry spells could see drought conditions return to areas across the country.

Water minister Rebecca Pow said: “Whilst recent rain has been a relief for many, it is crucial that we all work together to ease pressures on our precious water supply and increase resilience to drought – everyone has an important role to play.

“The Government will continue to work collaboratively with the Environment Agency and industry, and through our Plan for Water, we are ensuring key water supply infrastructure such as reservoirs can be built more quickly.

“Water companies must better deliver for customers, step up their water resource planning efforts and take precautionary steps to ensure water resilience.”

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