More than half of Britain is now in drought, the Environment Agency has warned, as the UK faces its most severe water shortage since 1976.
Half of Britain is now in drought as the country faces its most severe water shortage since 1976, the Environment Agency warns today.More than 35 million people are now living in drought-affected areas, with water shortages today declared across the Midlands and South West.Parts of the country are already drier than they were in the summer of 1976, when Britain experienced its worst drought for more than 100 years.
The drought of 1976 led to standpipes being installed in residential streets, water supplies to businesses being rationed and schools having to close early.The Environment Agency says similar measures are unlikely to be enforced this summer, but warns the dry conditions will damage the environment and lead to widespread water restrictions. “The lack of rain is taking its toll on the environment and farmers – causing problems for wildlife, wetlands and crop production,” a spokesman said.“Companies and consumers must all play their part by using water wisely to help conserve supplies.”
According to the Environment Agency, an area is in drought when the lack of rainfall has a “material effect on the environment”.Drought has already been declared across London, East Anglia and the South after the eighth-driest year on record, affecting more than 20 million people and leading to water restrictions.Today the Environment Agency announces that 17 counties across the South West and the Midlands are now in drought, affecting a further 15 million people. While water companies in the new drought areas say they have no plans to introduce hosepipe bans, they are urging customers to conserve water.
Dr Barnaby Smith, an executive at the Government-funded Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said that in parts of England river levels are lower than they were in April 1976. East Anglia is thought to be the most badly affected area.“There are parts of the country that are, for the time of year, in a worse position than in 1976, hydrologically speaking,” said Dr Smith.Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, is urging households to cut back on the amount of water they use.
“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,” she said. “It is for everyone to share the responsibility to save water. We are asking everyone to help by using less water and starting now.”The drought is so severe in parts of Britain that plans are being drawn up to trade water between two regions for the first time to supply more than 100,000 homes in the worst-hit areas.Severn Trent aims to sell 30 million litres of water a day to Anglian Water, one of the seven companies that have imposed a hosepipe ban, to help ease the shortage.
A former head of Welsh Water said last week that Wales should profit from transferring water to England.John Elfed Jones, former chairman and chief executive of the company, says water is a business and, like oil, it should be sold to make money.Ciaran Nelson, a spokesman for Anglian Water, said that constant rainfall was needed “for weeks if not months” to reverse the current situation. “We have had less rainfall in the last 18 months than in the last century,” he said.Anglers and environmentalists fear that the River Severn, which is experiencing a “dire” lack of rainfall, could be reduced to a “trickle” within months.
Wildlife campaigners said that if the conditions continue, plants and animals that rely on the 220-mile waterway for survival will be endangered.The chairman of Shropshire Anglers Federation, Sir John Roberts, said that over the past five years general rainfall levels had been falling.“Last year was bad but this year is worse because we haven’t had the rain through the winter,” he said.“April seems to be working as we expected, but we could do with a month’s worth of constant rain to bring things back to where they should be. We are in dire straits. When we hit high summer, the River Severn could be a trickle.” – Thetelegraph