Drought may last until Christmas: Environment Agency


Mark Green, who farms near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, said a lack of rainfall could affect both the yield and quality of his potato crop

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Official drought zones have been declared in a further 17 English counties, as a warning came that water shortages could last until Christmas.

The Environment Agency said dry weather over the past few months had left some rivers in England exceptionally low.

It has now extended its "drought map" into the Midlands and the South West.

Officials say public water supplies are unlikely to be affected by the continuing drought, but are reiterating calls for water to be used wisely.

England's South West and the Midlands have moved into official drought status after two dry winters "left rivers and ground waters depleted", the agency said.

Hosepipe ban

The Midlands region covers Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

Impact on wildlife

A water vole

Fish are dying in large numbers in shrinking waters, amphibians like frogs, toads and newts suffer as ponds and ditches dry out, and wading birds entering their breeding season have been hit by shrinking habitats and vanishing food supplies.

The Wildlife Trusts says prolonged drought not only reduces drinking and bathing water for birds, but makes it harder for birds, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles that feed on insects and worms.

Blackbirds, robins, thrushes, starlings, badgers, hedgehogs and shrews all find it hard to reach worms and soil-based insects during dry conditions, it said.

And water voles become more vulnerable to predators as water levels drop.

Bat species like the lesser and greater horseshoes are particularly associated with watery places and the insects they provide.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says wading birds like lapwings and redshank have been most directly affected by the conditions.

A spokesman said it expected a bad year for the "really important" population of black-tailed godwits at Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire.

Two or three poor seasons would have a serious impact on populations, he added.

The Angling Trust, meanwhile, warns that even when waters are not completely dried up, fish are unable to move around, migrate, or breed properly.

It says reduced flows lead to higher temperatures and less oxygen and make pollution more concentrated.

Dry conditions can expose fish eggs and kill baby fish.

The South West region covers Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, parts of Hampshire and most of Wiltshire.

Drought restrictions were already in place in south-east England, East Anglia, parts of the South and Yorkshire.

The Environment Agency said the dry weather was taking its toll on the environment and farmers.

And BBC Midlands Environment Correspondent David Gregory said the impact on farmers was one of the reasons the Midlands was being regarded as a drought zone.

"Although the Midlands now joins the South East and other parts of the UK in drought, the reasons behind the Environment Agency's decision are slightly different," he said.

"For the parched South East it is ordinary consumers who are affected. But in the Midlands that is not the case. Water companies there are all confident there will be no need to introduce a hosepipe ban for customers this year.

"However, a drought can cause other problems apart from a hosepipe ban. In the Midlands the lack of rainfall has had a huge impact on rivers and farmers."

During winter, parts of England received less than 60% of the average seasonal rainfall.

Hosepipe bans affecting about 20 million customers, introduced by seven water authorities in parts of southern and eastern England, remain in place.

Head of water resources at the Environment Agency Trevor Bishop said: "A longer-term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely.

"We are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought.

"While we've had some welcome rain recently, the problem has not gone away and we would urge everyone - right across the country - to use water wisely now, which will help to prevent more serious impacts next year."

The lack of rain had caused problems for wildlife, wetlands and crop production in the South West and Midlands, the agency said.

In the Midlands, it rescued fish from the River Lathkill in Derbyshire after it dried up.

Drought continues despite a wet week ahead. BBC Weather's Chris Fawkes has the details.

The rivers Tern, Sow, Soar and Leadon are at their lowest ever recorded levels.

In the South West, rivers are also suffering and nationally important chalk streams, such as the Dorset Avon and the Stour, which support rare trout and salmon species, are exceptionally low.

The agency said while rain over the spring and summer would help to water crops and gardens, it was "unlikely to improve the underlying drought situation".

The agency said it was working to help farmers top up their storage reservoirs, adding it had introduced a "fast track process" for farmers to apply to take additional water when river flows are high.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "As more areas of the UK move into drought it is vital that we use less water to protect the public's water supply in the driest areas of the country.

"It is for everyone to share the responsibility to save water."

Drought spreads across England
Map showing drought zones

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  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    It has been acceptable to let water companies profit whilst losing water hand over fist but now as water is more scarce and restrictions are becoming commonplace, profit must be used to create a reliable supply network. Legislation needs to be heavily updated to make companies understand that a second rate service just isn't acceptable

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    The same could be said of socialists, "enjoy your strikes". We have unreast in the public sector currently,
    We have drastic cuts in the Public Sector (although we can still afford I pads for MP's and Councils).

    I thought the only industrial action being touted (and much hyped by Maude & Co) was in the private sector - same sector as the BA cabin crews.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    #613 – Yes. With what will they water their crops or livestock unless there’s a sustained deluge of rainfall soon? The animals are being put in danger and farmers in a dilemma of what to do for best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    So will my direct debit to the water companies!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    Having had rain, hail or snow for the last 14 days in Bakewell, I was astonished to hear that the River Lathkill was dry and the trout were being rescued. I went over to have a look. Water everywhere. Normal levels, I would say. The River Lathkill is always "running dry" as it is fed partly by springs and partly by "soughs" or old mine workings. Propoganda? Whatever, ignore it, it's not true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    Quick! Everybody panic! it's time to start hoarding water people!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    70% or so of the earth’s surface is covered by water and we are an island surrounded by it. I believe we are all being subjected to propaganda instigated by the get rich water companies and supported by the government.
    Yes the population is growing but so are both the numbers of households paying for water and the size of the water bills- same volume water/higher number paying= lower bills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.


    'I feel so sorry for creatures that are already affected by a lack of water....... 'farmers and wildlife are trapped'

    Classic!!! Farmers are trapped????

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    The amount of water in the system doesn't matter to the water companies as they still get their income.

    So just what is the incentive for them to invest in actually improving the infrastructure?

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    "You trust unaccountable, for-profit foreign owned companies more.."

    not specifically, as I said, it is a choice of evils. Neither public not private sectors will guarantee to invest because it is subject to cashflows/political whims/budgets etc. Your choice to choose public I accept & respect, I only wish to show that it may not work as you would wish/hope for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Lack of water? Make sure you blame the left-wing, right-wing, foreigners, government and welfare state first.
    How about blaming companies who are more than happy to take money from us, selling a commodity that we have plenty abundance of and not investing in infastructure, maintanance, stoarage, water treatment, etc. They expect same rainfall every year. That's daft; it will always vary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    I feel so sorry for creatures that are already affected by a lack of water. Neither Govt nor companies appear to be doing anything to resolve the issue. Humans can find water, clean it and use as absolutely necessary, farmers and wildlife are trapped. A bigger disaster looms unless authorities take action to resolve the problem now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    So with droughts expected untill December will the water companies double their investment and efforts into reducing water leaks, cut dividends to shareholders rather than lump the costs on the public?

    Or will OFWAT continue to allow them to miss their targets, under perform and make huge profits like last year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.


    The post to which you refer doesn't mention immigration at all....

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    "Phoenix Arizona is extremely hot and dry for most of the year.. but never fails to ensure a clean and abundant supply is available for its population."

    If you ever fly into Las Vegas, Lake Meade (behind the Hoover Dam) which supplies most water to that part of the world can be clearly seen to be several metres lower than it was a few years ago by looking at the water marks on the rocks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Makes me laugh water companies tell you to save water as there is drought yet it takes them a month if not longer to repair a leak when reported, how much water has been lost during this period.
    When a leak is reported it should be to a central body for all water companies and if it is not repaired in a set time then the water company should be heavily fined by the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    The same could be said of socialists, "enjoy your strikes". We have unreast in the public sector currently
    ummm. Funny how we trust public sector doctors, nurses, policeman. firemen, amulance drivers, care workers... to act responsibly.
    You trust unaccountable, for-profit foreign owned companies more..

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    Even with some of the most powerful computers available, the Met Office still cannot predict accurately for more than about 24 hours in to the future. Watch the forecasts and you will often hear 'we are not completely sure where this will happen' because it is still an inexact science.

    The summer is coming now so we will probably be deluged in June so I wouldn't worry too much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    There are as many acres of land in the UK as there are people. Around 62 million of each.

    Even if you say half the land can't be used for living on (or Scotland is freed ) for whatever reason, that still leaves half an acre for all.

    We are not overpopulated,we just allow the bad management of what we have.

    Reclaiming our land would benefit us a hell of a lot more than just having enough water.


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