Calls for households to rein in their water use rose last week following an official report on drought risk this summer, which found public water supply is not currently under threat but there is significant pressure on agriculture and the environment in parts of the country.
A group of wildlife organisations and river groups including the Angling Trust called for the government and water companies to introduce hosepipe bans and other water restrictions “immediately to avert fish kills and longer term environmental damage”. They published a dossier Chalk streams in crisis which found all south east chalk rivers are suffering from over abstraction and damaging low flows.
Meanwhile, calls for a national campaign for wise water use also grew. Waterwise said it would like to see “a joined up national campaign to raise awareness of water use and how reducing consumption can make us more resilient to drought, benefit the environment, reduce carbon emissions and save money”. Artesia Consulting’s Rob Lawson remarked of a summary report from a meeting of the National Drought
Group provided by chair Sir James Bevan: “Got to say the story here feels very odd. Feels like ‘Environment is at risk and agriculture also under sig. pressure but should be ok as long as we can meet households’ unrestricted peak demands for water.”
Sir James summarised the current situation as follows: “After the heatwave last year and a dry winter, this spring again saw lower than average rainfall. Low rainfall in April and May, particularly in the East of England, has seen some river flows decline to lower than normal for the time of year. In the south and east, rainfall has not replenished groundwater stores, with levels now declining. While there is no threat to public water supply, these conditions are putting particular pressure on the environment and agriculture. It will be some time before conditions can return to normal. Rainfall over the next few weeks will not be sufficient.”
The group,called on the public to use water wisely as well as detailing actions being taken by water companies, agriculture and others. It will next meet in late July “to assess the latest situation and take any further necessary measures”.