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  • by Trevor Loveday

Experts warn of signs of drought after May rainfall halves

Hydrology experts have warned the “UK may be on course for a significant drought this summer,” particularly in northern and western regions.

Researchers at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) have reported “plummeting” river flow and soil moisture with instances of “record low levels for the time of year” after rainfall in May fell to less than half of the average for the month.

The scientists said sustained wet weather was needed to reverse the very dry conditions in some parts of the UK – particularly as high temperatures are forecast for the summer.

UKCEH has identified cases where the driest conditions have come only weeks after flooding in February. Examples include the Severn and Wye catchments.

Despite the wet winter UKCEH has found that that reservoir stocks fell substantially during May to as much as 15-20% lower than expected for the time of year. May river flows, the scientists said, have been “comparable to some major past drought episodes – lower than in major events like 1984 and 1976, for example, in some western rivers.”

UKCEH said its analysis suggests “the outlook for the next month, and the next three months, is for below-normal river flows to persist, particularly in northern and western parts of the UK.”

It added: “The water situation in the south and east of England is healthier; groundwater levels are mostly above normal following the lasting influence of the wet winter and are likely to continue to be in the normal rangets warno

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