UK likely to face drought in August; Residents urged to use water wisely

Drought group readies action plan as Met forecasts another severe heatwave  

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 28 July 2022
The UK has experienced a number of droughts in the last 40 years. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

People across the United Kingdom have been urged to use water wisely to protect water supplies and the environment during the current period of prolonged dry weather. 

UK Environment Agency (UKEA) — a non-departmental public body — organised an early meeting of the National Drought Group (NDG) July 26, 2022, which made these suggestions. 

With the forecasts of potentially several more dry weeks ahead, particularly in the south and east of the country, UKEA and water companies are now working together, the UK government said in a statement July 26, 2022.

NDG was supposed to meet in October 2022, but the convention was moved forward to discuss the “impacts” and “crisis” due to the “extreme heat wave” in the UK. The group last met in March 2022. 

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Why the urgency

UK temperatures broke the 40°C barrier July 19 for the first time in recorded history. 

As the heatwave continued, the UK Met office predicted another severe heatwave in its latest forecast for August 2022

Britain is likely to face drought in August as river levels hit ‘exceptionally low’ as per the experts. The group met earlier than schedule to plan for the drought due to hot and dry days.

Droughts are natural events that occur when a period of low rainfall creates a water shortage. It can also affect rivers or aquifers, depending on the lack of rainfall. 

Over the past 40 years, the UK has experienced several droughts. 

Of these, the most notable have been from 1975 to 1976, 1989 to 1992, 1995 to 1996, 2004 to 2006 and 2010 to 2012, according to the National Disaster Group, UK. The UK government had declared drought in 2018 too.

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“The ongoing warm weather in most of the country follows the driest winter and spring since the 1970s,” Stuart Colville, director of policy for Water UK, said at the meeting. Water UK is the trade association representing water companies in the country.

The action plan

The disaster group had senior officials from UKEA and government departments like Department for Environment and Food & Rural Affairs.

Water companies, Water UK, the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales and environmental protection groups like Angling Trust and Rivers Trust were also part of the meet.

The members agreed upon joint action to protect the country’s water supplies and the environment, with further dry weather forecasted for August.

“We can all do our bit by reducing unnecessary water consumption and following advice from our water company to ensure this remains the case whilst our rivers are exceptionally low,” said Harvey Bradshaw, NDG chair. He is also executive director for UKEA. 

The group is working very closely with water companies, farmers and other water users to manage the current situation. 

The abnormally high temperatures due to less rainfall have exacerbated the dry conditions in several parts of the UK. 

The early stages of the well-rehearsed and publicly available drought plans are being put to practice, UKEA said. 

The body has plans to manage and restrict the abstraction of water to balance the needs of users and the environment. 

UKEA has plans for operating water transfer schemes in areas worst affected. This will allow rivers to be artificially maintained. The body will also work with the farming sector and provide assistance. 

Colville said water companies had detailed plans in place as well. 

People are being asked to rationalise their use of water given the extremely high demand. The water industry is running a national water saving campaign called Water’s Worth Saving that provides the public with helpful hints and tips on how to do their bit with water use in the home and garden.

Some rivers could have 50-80 per cent less water during the summer by 2050, show projections. Summer temperatures are set to be up to 7.4°C hotter, per the UK government’s statement.

The NDG will next meet in August.

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