Farmers urged to act now to preserve water supply

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.

The National Drought Group (senior staff from the Environment Agency, government, the Met Office, water companies and key farming and environmental groups) 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.

AHDB reports that “Unprecedented weather swings, from the driest February in 30 years to the wettest March in 40 years, highlight how we cannot rely on the weather to avoid drought. With two Environment Agency areas remaining in drought, the government is focusing on securing water supplies at a regional level.”

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 has also introduced a temporary use ban on hosepipes in the Roadford area in Devon.

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.”

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.”

As well as discussing action by water companies, the group also looked at what actions could be taken with the farming sector to improve drought resilience, secure future water availability and support food security. This builds on new commitments in the Plan for Water, including a further £10 million through the Water Management Grant to fund on-farm reservoirs.

Environment Agency Executive Director and National Drought Group 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.”

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