England declares drought in parts after months of scant rain

England declares drought in parts after months of scant rain
Written by admin

The Environment Agency announced that the south, south-west and south-east of England are in drought, along with the central and eastern regions, after convening the National Drought Group, made up of water companies, ministers and other water authorities. Parts of the capital London are also affected.

The UK has had five straight months of below-average rainfall and back-to-back heatwaves, with temperatures expected to peak as high as 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts on Saturday. Only two months since the start of 2021 have seen at least average rainfall.

The south of England received just 17% of its average rainfall in July, according to the UK weather office.

“We are currently experiencing a second heat wave after what was the driest July on record in parts of the country. The government and other partners are already taking action, including the Environment Agency, to manage the impacts,” the minister said. of Water of the country, Steve Double. in a sentence. “All the water companies have assured us that essential supplies are still safe and we have made it clear that it is their duty to maintain those supplies.”

While lack of rain and heat are causing this drought, around 3.1 billion liters of water is lost every day in England and Wales due to leaks in the nations outdated infrastructure. Consumer groups and experts have called on water companies to do more to plug leaks.

The Environment Agency said in its statement that the government expects water companies to “reduce leaks and fix leaking pipes as quickly as possible and take broader action in conjunction with government policy.”

Several rivers in England have dried up in parts, including the Thames, which runs through London. The officials have been reoxygenating rivers and rescuing fish where levels are low. Water levels in reservoirs are also falling rapidly.
A car drives over a bridge over a dry riverbed where the River Thames normally flows, near Kemble in Gloucestershire.

The drought declaration means that water companies and governments must implement drought plans without seeking permission from ministers. Companies are likely to impose more hose-down bans, already in place for millions of people, forcing them to water gardens and wash cars without hoses, and refrain from filling wading pools in the ongoing heat wave. Companies could also draw more water from rivers and other sources to ensure supplies.

Friday’s announcement puts the declared area under an amber drought alert, meaning several indicators, including rainfall, river levels and flows, reservoir storage and groundwater levels, are very low.

Thirteen rivers that the Environmental Agency monitors as indicators of broader conditions are at their lowest levels ever recorded, while soil moisture is comparable to the end of the 1975-76 drought, one of the most severe in the country. That drought was also caused by a combination of extreme heat and consecutive months of little rain.

The amber alert is one level below the more severe red alert and means that stress to water supply sources, reduced agricultural and crop yields, localized wildfires, and impacts to wildlife and their habitats are likely. according to a previous report by the Environment Agency.
The London Fire Brigade also warned of “dry dust” conditions this week and an “exceptional fire risk” across the capital, as temperatures are expected to reach 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday and grass, from lawns to public parks. and heathland, it is completely dry and brown without the usual rain. Parts of the capital, including houses and parks, were hit by fires on July 19 during an unprecedented heat wave.

Food safety concerns are growing

The UK typically experiences drought conditions every five to 10 years in some areas. The Center for Ecology and Hydrology has said drought conditions could continue through at least October. The agency only looks ahead a few months, and climate scientists have warned that if the next winter is also dry, like last winter, the UK’s food security could be at risk.

Local residents use garden hoses to help fire crews tackle a crop that has swept through farmland and threatened local homes on August 11, 2022 in Skelton, England.

Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said there were already concerns about the drought’s impact on food supply and affordability.

“There are a number of crops that are really having problems because of the lack of rain, like the potato crop here depends on the rain, usually they don’t take water from anywhere else to irrigate the fields. And even some of the other crops that do take water from rivers, for example to irrigate fields, are having great difficulty right now,” Bentley told CNN.

“Even under the current conditions, yields are going to go down for a number of crops and the price of these things is going to go up, and obviously that’s because of the drought here in the UK. But other things are happening across Europe.” .

Europe reels as repeated heat waves cause chaos

Some 63% of the land in the European Union and the United Kingdom is under drought warnings or alerts issued by the European Drought Monitor, meaning that soil moisture is inadequate. That’s an area about the size of India, or the three largest US states (Alaska, Texas, and California) combined. On 17% of the land, drought conditions are more severe, meaning vegetation is stressed.

Experts warn that the drought could continue into the fall, or even winter, when the nation normally gets most of its rain for storage during the drier times of the year. Another dry winter would put even more pressure on food security.

“It’s going to continue into the fall and then really, we don’t know beyond that. It depends on whether we see significant rain, good steady rain that replenishes water levels,” Bentley said. “What we don’t want right now is heavy, thunderous downpours, because the ground is so dry that the water just runs off. It doesn’t soak into the ground.”

About the author


Leave a Comment