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  • by Trevor Loveday

Researchers warn gaps in understanding drought may threaten water supplies and rivers

Researchers have warned that maintaining reliable water supplies in the UK while improving the quality of its rivers and seas is becoming “increasingly difficult” due largely to “gaps in the understanding of droughts”.

A report by the Environment Agency’ chief scientist’s group has highlighted shortfalls in the understanding of fundamental aspects of drought in the UK. It says “There is currently large uncertainty in the present and future impacts of drought, and significant spatial differences in impacts across different scales.”

The report covers the findings of a review of scientific and other academic literature on the topic in which the Environment Agency said it worked with more than 40 experts from 13 different universities, research institutes, and consultancies.

The report highlights gaps in understanding in:

  • the scientific processes in play during drought;

  • identifying and monitoring drought;

  • the impacts of drought; and

  • finding effective pursuit of recovery from drought.

Specific problem areas include the changing nature of drought, catchment processes, and social and behavioural issues.

The historical scarcity of drought events, according to the report, “means that there are many gaps in the understanding of droughts in England”. The review found that “the large-scale atmospheric drivers of drought remain poorly understood.” It adds: “The nature of UK droughts is expected to change as the climate changes, but there is uncertainty about how, including the magnitude of any changes.”

According to the report; “The way that water demand changes during drought remains poorly understood, partly because each drought is different but also because people’s response to drought changes through time.”

Click here to download the 669-page Review Appendix

Click here to download the Chief Scientist's Group summary report


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