South West no longer in drought after weeks of heavy rain
THE South West is no longer in drought after weeks of torrential rains topped up reservoirs and replenished groundwater.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: "South West England, the Midlands and parts of Yorkshire are no longer in drought due to the recent rainfall. It is unlikely that water companies will now impose hosepipe bans in these areas over the summer."
He added: "The wettest April on record and continuing rainfall in May have significantly increased river and reservoir levels, reducing pressure on the environment and public water supplies in some parts of England.
"These indicators have led the Environment Agency to remove the drought status for certain areas. Though it stressed that groundwater supplies remain low across the country."
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The news released today comes as South West Water said it had hit its leakage target for the 13th year in a row.
Reservoirs levels in the South West climbed to 90% – 11 percentage points higher than last May – on the day the region officially moved out of drought status.
Burrator Resrvoir, just north of Plymouth, is at 100 per cent.
Thanks to recent rain, reservoir levels have climbed back up to 90% capacity at a time when they would normally be dropping due to rising seasonal demand.
Dr Paul Leinster, Environment Agency Chief Executive, said: "Water resources across England and Wales are kept constantly under review. The recent record rainfall has eased pressure on water resources in some parts of England, helping levels in rivers and reservoirs to recover and providing relief to farmers, gardeners and wildlife.
"The Environment Agency will continue to keep a close eye on the situation. Low groundwater levels remain a concern across many parts of England, with many still at a similar level to those in 1976 and unlikely to return to normal levels before the winter. A return to a long period of dry weather would increase the risk again."
The 19 areas that are no longer in drought are South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, Parts of Gloucestershire, Parts of Hampshire, most of Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire.
In the week ending 6 April, the Environment Agency’s weekly water situation report showed:
Rainfall at between 29-68 per cent of average for March
River flows below normal or lower at every indicator site in England
Reservoir stocks below normal or notably low at 65 per cent of indicator sites in England
Groundwater levels below normal or lower at all but four indicator sites (84 per cent), with 12 sites rated exceptionally low in England.
After the persistent and heavy rain of recent weeks, the Environment Agency’s weekly water situation report for week ending 11 May showed:
The most rainfall in April in over 100 years
River flows notably or exceptionally high at 48 per cent of indicator sites across England
Many reservoirs are recovering
Groundwater levels still exceptionally low in 42 per cent of indicator sites in England.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "If an area is no longer in drought, the public shouldn’t have the possibility of hosepipe bans or other temporary restrictions hanging over their heads, which is why Defra and the Environment Agency have been continuously monitoring and reviewing the drought situation.
"But we cannot forget that Anglia, London and the South East are still in drought and still experiencing water restrictions.
"That’s because even the record rainfall we had in April and the prediction of more wet weather in May won’t make up for the water shortages in these areas caused by two extremely dry winters."
South West Water Operations Director Dr Stephen Bird said preventing leaks had helped the region climb out of drought conditions.
He said: “Preventing water leaks as well finding and repairing them quickly when they do happen are things we do every day, rain or shine. Leakage has been reduced by 60% since 1989 and I’m pleased to say that year round effort is one of the reasons why we have avoided the need for any form of water restrictions this summer.
“With reservoir levels back to 90%, we remain confident we are in a strong water resources position though as ever we would like our customers to continue using water wisely.”
Leakage technician Mel Hogan said: “Leaks will happen because that is the nature of underground pipes. They can be disturbed by vehicle movements overhead, changes in temperature and even tree roots. What is important is that we keep leakage to a minimum, and that’s where I come in.”