Water restrictions likely next spring if winter rainfall is below average

A delay in refilling groundwater aquifers could increase the risk of drought in the east and south east of England in 2019

Festival Net Zero 2021

Restrictions on consumers using water are likely next spring if the UK sees a drier than average winter.

The National Drought Group (NDG), chaired by Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan, said if rainfall this winter is below average, it could also prove another challenging summer for farmers next year and cause further environmental impacts across the country.

The NDG brings together government departments, water companies, environmental groups and others to co-ordinate action to maintain water supplies and manage other risks associated with drought.

The dry summer this year had a significant impact on water supplies, agriculture, the environment and wildlife, with the Environment Agency responding to 314 dry weather-related incidents over summer – more than three times the usual amount.

The Agency said the water resources situation has not yet returned to normal despite the recent rainfall.

It warned a delay in refilling groundwater aquifers and reservoirs over the coming months mean an increase in the risk of drought in the east and south east of England next summer.

Water companies have, however, set out the action they will be taking to meet the challenge, including putting more resources into efforts to reduce leakage, seeking to capture and store as much water as possible going into the autumn, exploring opportunities for water transfers between companies and improving their drought plans.

Mr Bevan said: “Ensuring sufficient water for the public, the economy and the environment is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country. The Environment Agency will continue to work actively with the water companies and other water users to seek to ensure that.

“But this is not just a matter for the organisations at National Drought Group. We all use water and everyone has a role to play in ensuring we continue to have reliable access to it so we encourage everyone to please use water wisely.”

The NDG will meet again in November to take stock and agree any further necessary measures going into winter.

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