After the driest winter in two decades, Affinity Water is calling for households in southern England, in the United Kingdom (UK), to cut back on their water consumption so that they will not be faced with water restrictions in the future.
This is the driest period from October to March since 1995 to 1996, and following the arid winter season, less than half the average rainfall for the month of April has come, making the harsh conditions worse for farmers in the country.
The last major warning for drought was half a decade back, in 2012, but since then, while there has not been an official warning, localised issues and close calls persisted. A report commissioned by a number of water companies, and published in 2016, Water Resources: Long-term Planning Framework, found that the risk of drought was growing die to a combination of climate change and a lack of water infrastructure.
However, historically, water restrictions have always weighed heavier on farmers than residents.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) stated, “There remains a risk that groundwater in the south and east may not have recovered sufficiently to avoid the imposition of some drought management actions in late summer…rain-fed crops such as cereals are beginning to suffer from low soil moisture.”
“Since July 2016, our region has received just over half of the normal rainfall that we would normally expect,” a spokesman for Affinity Water, who serves customers in parts of southern England an average of 900 million litres of water a day, said. “Due to the low rainfall, many rivers across the south-east of England have seen flows decrease. Our groundwater sources have also been affected by the low rainfall, which is where 60 per cent of the water we supply to our customers comes from. We are encouraging our customers to save water to help preserve supplies and minimise the possibility of restrictions this summer.”
Similarly, Southern Water repeated its tips for saving water, though it stopped just short of issuing a warning.
“Despite the dry winter, we don’t believe we will need to take measures, such as introducing temporary use bans, previously known as hosepipe bans, in our water supply areas this spring and summer,” a statement the organisation released said, “We’re continuing to monitor the situation closely, with clear plans in place to make sure we’re fully prepared, should the relatively dry weather continue in the months ahead.”
The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, has forecasted some rainfall before the arid conditions return.
“I can say that in the next few days it does not look like there is going to be anything particularly meaningful in terms of rainfall,” Met Office spokesman, Grahame Madge, said. “After some rainfall in the middle of May, it looks likely drier than average conditions will return towards the end of May.”
While there are no present water supple issues, the Environment Agency stated that it was keeping an eye on the situation.
“We always advise that everyone use water wisely – especially during a period of dry weather – and to follow the advice of their water company should water saving measures be required,” a spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said, “The Environment Agency, water companies, businesses and farmers are working together to minimise any potential impacts to people and the environment should the dry weather continue.”
Sources: Water UK, The Guardian, Water Resources: Long-term Planning Framework, Affinity Water, Southern Water, the Met Office, the Environment Agency