Environment Agency predicts summer drought in the South

Despite the current cold spell, with snow drifts and ice closing many roads and making commuters lives misery, the Environment Agency has warned that the South of England could soon be in for a severe drought unless above average rainfall comes in the next few months.

While other regions of the country have experienced torrential downpours and floods (see related story), rainfall in the south has been well below average over the winter months.

As a result, river flows and groundwater are both much lower than usual for the time of year.

Between November 2004 and January 2005 only half the normal amount was recorded. Even the recent snow will make little difference, the Agency says, as 30cm of snow is only equivalent to 3cm of water.

Average rainfall for the south in January was only 39mm, compared with a long-term average of 81mm. February has also been exceptionally dry, with only 20-45% of the normal amount, making it the fourth consecutive month of below average rainfall.

Peter Midgely, Regional Strategy Manager for the Environment Agency said: “We simply need more water to fall from the sky. We have now had four months of below average rainfall and need a wet spring to get water levels back up.”

He added that we could all do more to conserve water in our daily lives, for example by switching off taps when brushing teeth, using showers instead of baths, and using a watering can instead of the hose when watering the garden.

The Agency is working closely with local water companies in the South to monitor the situation and keep the public informed.

Meyrick Gough, Southern Water’s Water Planning and Strategy Manager said: “Underground water sources rely solely on winter rainfall to fill them up. About 70% of water supplies in the Southern Water’s area come from under ground it is vital that these sources benefit from rainfall before the spring and summer.”

“The recent weather, along with predictions from experts that climate change will cause summers to be longer and hotter, shortening our refill periods, shows how important it is that we use water wisely and do not waste this precious resource. We can all be more aware of the amount of water we use and take steps to conserve it where possible,” he added.

By David Hopkins

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