Drought takes its toll on wildlife

The continuing drought has hit England's wildlife hard as the accumulated effects of low rainfall take their toll on surface water levels, the Environmental Agency has warned.

From toxic algal blooms to dead fish and water birds, the environment is suffering alongside the 13 million people in the south east of England affected by water restrictions, the EA said.

The agency’s calls for sensible water use were echoed by much stronger statements from wildlife groups, which said environmental damage was exacerbated by the “profligate waste of the country’s water.”

The Dry Rot report from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which looks at the damage to wildlife caused by the drought, calls for an end to the ‘madness of leaking pipes, water greedy housing and over-zealous land drainage.’ The report is backed by a number of other groups, including the WWF.

Phil Burston, the RSPB’s water policy officer and author of the report, said: “Managing water in this sane way could prevent the need for costly and environmentally damaging new infrastructure and reduce the overall environmental impact of supplying us with water.

“While we may not be able to prevent natural drought, we can reduce its impacts on wildlife and the environment by transforming the way we manage water.

The ongoing drought follows two winters of rainfall at record lows and a dry, hot summer, and now manifests itself through tangible effects reaching far beyond groundwater, drying up rivers, lakes and wetlands, according to the Environment Agency.

Dr David King, director of water management at the EA, said: “At first, we couldn’t see the impact of the drought around us, as the real problems were low groundwater levels in the south east. But the continued lack of rainfall, low water levels and recent high temperatures have put pressure on the environment right across England and Wales.”

“It’s now clear that the impact of the drought is no longer just contained to the south east of England, where water shortages were impacting on people’s water use. The environmental problems are much more widespread,” he said.

Dr King also called on people to save water and report environmental problems related to the drought to the EA.

“It’s our job to make sure that the impacts of water shortages are balanced between the environment and people. The Environment Agency responds immediately to reports of environmental incidents, carrying out fish rescues, increasing oxygen levels in water and monitoring water levels.”

Goska Romanowicz

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