Public water supplies, agricultural water stores and wildlife habitats replenished by April downpours
The wettest April on record and continuing rain in May have significantly reduced the risks of serious drought and widespread water restrictions this summer, the Environment Agency has confirmed today.
But the agency also warned that underground water levels are still low or exceptionally low in some areas, and some rivers are still at risk of drying up as ground water levels reduce over the summer with use. It stressed that it is still important that everyone continues to use water wisely, to protect water supplies for agriculture and the environment.
In its latest Water Resources and Drought Prospects report, the Environment Agency found that river levels and reservoir stocks have significantly improved, easing the pressure on the environment and water supplies. Further water restrictions for the public, farmers and businesses are now increasingly unlikely, it said.
But with groundwater levels still low in some areas and unlikely to improve before winter, the Environment Agency and water companies are putting plans in place to protect water supplies next year if another dry winter further reduces these underground stocks.
Trevor Bishop, Head of Water Resources at the Environment Agency, said: “We have seen a huge improvement in water resources in just a few short months, putting us in a much more positive position for the summer. While the downpours in April were pretty miserable, they were really welcome as water companies were able to refill their reservoirs, river levels are mostly back to normal, and many wildlife habitats that were suffering have recovered.
“But while the risk of drought with further water restrictions and associated environmental impacts this summer has reduced, the situation could deteriorate again next year if there is not enough rain this winter. We are still working with partners, planning for the impacts that a third dry winter could have on next year’s water supplies.”
The Environment Agency report found that:
- The wet weather in April and May has reduced the risk of further water restrictions and associated environmental impacts this summer
- Most river flows have returned to normal levels for the time of year, and almost all reservoirs are now at least 75 per cent full
- April and May’s rainfall has benefited many wildlife habitats, including vital wetland sites, that had been suffering the effects of the early dry weather
- Farm water reservoirs are now generally full and the likelihood of restrictions on spray irrigation has reduced
- Low groundwater levels remain a concern across many parts of England
- There is still a risk that some streams and wetlands will dry up as groundwater levels reduce further over the summer with use
- Groundwaters in some areas need 140 per cent of long term rainfall this winter to recover fully.
If there is a hot dry summer, there is a risk of excessive weed growth and algal blooms occurring in rivers and ponds. This can lead to a lack of oxygen and problems for fish and other wildlife. The Environment Agency will continue to monitor the impacts of dry weather on wildlife and habitats and will take action to mitigate these impacts wherever possible.