The Environment Agency announced that the south, south-west and south-east of England, along with the central and eastern regions, are drought-prone, after convening a national drought group made up of water companies, ministers and other water authorities. Parts of the capital London are also affected.
Britain has had five straight months of below-average rain and heatwaves, with temperatures expected to reach 37 Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts on Saturday. Since the start of 2021, only two months have seen below average rainfall.
Southern England recorded just 17% of its average July rainfall, according to the UK Met Office.
“We are currently experiencing a second heat wave in some parts of the country after the driest month of July,” said Steve Dibble, the country’s water minister. Actions are already being taken to deal with it.” “All water companies have assured us that essential supplies are still in place, and we have made it clear that it is their duty to maintain their supply,” a statement said.
While a lack of rain and heat is driving the drought, around 3.1 billion liters of water is being lost every day in England and Wales through leaks in the nation’s aging infrastructure. Consumer groups and experts have called on water companies to do more to stop leaks.
The Environment Agency said in a statement that the government expected water companies to “minimize leaks and repair pipes as soon as possible and take wider action in line with government policy.”
A drought declaration means that water companies and governments can implement drought plans without getting permission from ministers. Companies are likely to impose further restrictions on hosepipes, which are already available to millions of people, forcing them to water gardens and wash cars without hoses, and fill paddling pools in the ongoing heat wave. Avoiding Companies may also draw more water from rivers and other sources to ensure supply.
The announcement on Friday puts the region under a drought warning, meaning several indicators — including rainfall, river levels and flows, reservoir storage and groundwater levels — are very low.
Thirteen rivers monitored by the Environment Agency as an indicator of wider conditions are at their lowest levels ever recorded, while soil moisture levels are lower than at the end of the 1975-76 drought. It is one of the most severe droughts in the country. That drought was also caused by a combination of extreme heat and consecutive months of low rainfall.
Food security is a growing concern.
The UK typically experiences a drought every five to 10 years in some areas. The Center for Ecology and Hydrology has said that drought conditions may continue at least until October. The agency is only looking ahead a few months, and climate scientists have warned that if this coming winter is as dry as last winter, Britain’s food security could be at risk.
Liz Bentley, CEO of the Royal Meteorological Society, said there were already concerns about the impact of the drought on food supply and affordability.
“There are a lot of crops that are really struggling either because of the lack of rain, like the potato crop here that depends on the rain, they don’t usually take water from somewhere else to irrigate the fields. . . . And even some of the other crops that take water from the rivers, for example, to irrigate the fields, they’re really struggling right now,” Bentley told CNN.
“Even in the current conditions, many crops are going to be down and prices are going to go up, and obviously that’s because of the drought here in the UK. But there are other things going on across Europe.”
About 63% of land in the EU and UK is under drought warnings or warnings issued by the European Drought Monitor, meaning insufficient soil moisture. This is an area roughly the size of India, or the three largest US states – Alaska, Texas and California – combined. On 17% of the land, drought conditions are more severe, meaning vegetation is stressed.
Experts are warning that the drought could continue into the fall, or even winter, which is when the nation typically gets most of its rain to store for the drier parts of the year. she does. Another dry winter will put further pressure on food security.
“It’s going to continue into the fall and then really, we don’t know beyond that. It depends on whether we see any significant rain — good steady rain that replenishes the water table,” Bentley said. said “What we don’t want right now are heavy, thundery rains, because the ground is so dry that the water is running off. It’s not soaking into the ground.”