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  • by Karma Loveday

Drought may persist into 2023

Average winter rainfall levels will be insufficient to avoid drought conditions in some areas of the country next year, according to the multi-stakeholder National Drought Group.

At a meeting last week, the group heard that drought conditions are forecast to persist beyond spring in parts of the South West, South East, East and Yorkshire and East Midlands. Moreover, even if winter rainfall is typical, environmental impacts (such as on fish populations) could persist in 2023 due to the “lag” in the environmental response to dry weather.

The Environment Agency’s (EA's) water situation report for September showed that, for the first time in six months, rainfall across England as a whole reached average levels. “However, due to soils remaining drier than usual, this has made little or no difference to reservoir levels and most of the country remains in drought…River and groundwater levels remain low and reservoir stocks continue to decrease at all the reservoirs the EA reports on.”

Among the actions being taken to manage the situation, the EA has approved drought permits for South West Water to manage abstraction from the Tamar Lakes in Cornwall and for South East Water to manage abstraction from the Ardingly (River Ouse) reservoir. The following drought permit applications are also currently under consideration:

• Yorkshire Water, to conserve water by reducing the flows out of the North West group of reservoirs;

• Thames Water, to manage abstraction from the River Thames to help refill Farmoor reservoir, and to manage groundwater abstraction at Baunton and Meysey Hampton; and

• Severn Trent, for reservoirs in Derwent Valley.

Further drought permit applications are anticipated.

The EA added: “The NDG noted that many of the actions needed to ensure long term water security, notably the investment in new water infrastructure, will also play an important part in driving growth for the country as a whole. Members identified a set of actions to help accelerate delivery of that infrastructure and the water security it will help to ensure.”


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