Farmers and water companies must act now on drought
A new report from the Environment Agency has warned that a dry winter following this year's dry spring could spell disaster for the water environment.
The Drought Prospects report, commissioned by Defra, says that farmers need to invest more in winter storage and the water companies need to plan for future dry periods.
While the water supply shortages in England and Wales have left public water supplies mainly unaffected, farmers have been hit by a reduction on water abstraction.
The report says that farmers and water companies need to act now to plan for how they will meet their future water needs.
It recommends that water companies in drought affected areas continue to run co-ordinated campaigns for using water wisely, targeted at domestic and business users.
It urges the companies to prepare plans based on different rainfall scenarios that might occur during the winter.
Farmers are advised to construct reservoirs for winter storage if they don't currently have capacity.
They are encouraged to work together to develop solutions to ensure current supplies last as long as possible. This could include the continuation of 'water cooperatives' to share water and applying voluntary restrictions when required to avoid formal measures.
Environment Agency chairman, Lord Chris Smith, said: "This year's drought, despite recent rain in some parts of the country, has been a wake-up call. It has been tough for many farmers and we are working hard to find ways to help them, while also protecting the environment.
"We are better prepared than ever for extreme drought, but there is always more that can and should be done. Our report urges water companies, farmers and other businesses to look again at ways to store water and reduce and share the amount they use.
"Leading companies are already implementing water efficiency plans which will also help reduce their costs and carbon footprint. There is a careful balance to be struck to meet the water needs of businesses, farmers, households and the environment and everyone has a part to play." Alison Brown