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How likely are water restrictions in Yorkshire?

Paul Hudson | 14:50 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

UPDATED at 1pm Wed 7th July

Thanks to Quaesoveritas for highlighting the error in rainfall statistics. It has indeed been the driest start since 1953, not 1929.


People in North West England are facing a hosepipe ban unless there's significant rainfall very soon, following the driest start to a year there since 1929.

But despite the geographical proximity to Yorkshire, according to Yorkshire Water, the situation here is much healthier. At the end of last week, water stocks were running at around 75%. So why, when we have had similar weather to Northwest England, are we not facing imminent drought orders here too?

This is because reservoirs aren't our only source of water - in fact this is where about ¾ of our drinking water comes from. The rest comes from bore holes in the East.

And the reservoirs in the West of our region are connected to the bore holes further East by an underground pipe network capable of pumping water from one part of Yorkshire to another.

And, if necessary, water can be pumped from some of the county's rivers, like the Ouse outside York, which are also connected to this underground pipe network.

This pipe network was laid as a direct result of the disastrous water shortage of 1995, which is still fresh in peoples' minds. Reservoirs were at healthy levels at the end of winter 1995, but a combination of a very dry Spring and Summer, coupled with a water pipe network that was in dire need of repair, meant that by the end of Summer the Nidderdale reservoirs, which supply water to Bradford, were within 10 days of running completely dry. Convoys of tankers brought millions of gallons water by road all the way from Northumberland to Scammonden reservoir in Calderdale in a desperate attempt to prevent stand pipes on the streets. It was a pr disaster for Yorkshire Water.

But it's thanks to the lessons learned by Yorkshire Water in 1995 that the county now has arguably the most reliable and robust water supply in the country. That said, if the dry weather continued into July and August, the authorities may come under pressure to follow the Northwest region in looking more closely at seeking a drought order.


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