The Environment Agency last week formally declared an “environmental drought” in Hertfordshire and North London.
It cited climate change and lower than average rainfall over the past three years, which has meant the area has received around 50% of winter recharge since 2016/17. Another contributory factor listed was higher water consumption, with the Agency citing that the South East has the highest water consumption in the country.
The EA also pointed out: “There is significant stress on our rivers and the life they support across a number of counties, including Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Buckinghamshire.” It warned: “Another dry winter will very likely require Temporary Use Bans to be implemented next year. We will work with the water companies to do everything we can to plan and protect the environment should we not receive the level of rain we hope for this winter.”
Among the actions it referenced were abstraction reductions (Affinity Water has cut abstraction by 42m litres a day since 2015, with a further reduction of 33m litres a day earmarked by 2025 – “a combined reduction of 12% of total groundwater abstraction in their central region”); changes to strategic water resources planing processes; on-the-ground actions to rescue fish populations; the Love Water campaign; and DEFRA’s per capita consumption consultation.
Last week Affinity Water gave its central region customers early warning of hosepipe bans in spring 2020, if another dry winter ensues.