Drought has been declared across the East of England as well as in parts of the South West, Southern and Central England, after a meeting of senior officials of the National Drought Group this morning.
With more than half of England officially declared to be in drought, water companies will begin enacting drought plans, likely announcing stricter measures to preserve supplies.
Much of the UK has received little rainfall so far this summer, with England experiencing its driest July since 1935, seeing temperatures reach a record 40.3C on 19 July.
As Britain experiences its second heatwave, the drought declaration comes with the hope that people will curb their water usage.
So far, hosepipe bans have been announced by four water providers, with bans by Southern Water and South East Water already in effect. Today, Yorkshire Water – which has more than five million customers – announced its first ban in 27 years, set for 26 August.
Thames Water, the UK’s largest water company with 15 million customers, said a ban will be imposed “in the coming weeks.”
Hosepipe bans will generally mean people prohibited from using hosepipes or outside taps, including to water plants, and clean cars. There are exceptions, such as watering new lawns and filling religious fountains or pools for medical treatment, as well as topping up fishponds.
Businesses such as car washes and farms are exempt from the bans.
With drought, comes all sorts of problems. As the grass turns brown, Jerusalem’s famous line about England’s “green and pleasant land” no longer seems to apply. Grassfires tear their way through farmland filled with failing crops, with the Essex Fire Service alone tackling 20 field fires yesterday, and the nation’s rivers and reservoirs are also drying up.
Meanwhile, across the channel, Europe is suffering a similar fate. In Bordeaux, firefighters from five nations are battling a “monster” fire for the third day in a row, it has already consumed 29 square miles and forced 10,000 to evacuate.
In Germany, the Rhine river’s water level has fallen to 39 cm at a chokepoint in Kaub, becoming impassable to many barges supplying coal, oil and gas to factories and power stations upriver.
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Similarly, Frankfurt Airport has seen barge deliveries of jet fuel cease due to the low water level.
While advice to reduce water consumption on a personal level – by taking shorter showers and such – should certainly be heeded, water companies have come under fire for not doing enough to repair leaks.
Currently, nine billion litres – 20 percent of the UK’s water use – is wasted each day due to leaking pipes. In comparison, Denmark wastes just seven percent of its water usage.
Next week, storms are expected for much of the UK. But it won’t be a magic fix. Rain will likely bring problems of its own, with the risk of flash floods increased due to the dry ground.