Thames Water warns of potential summer drought

Thames Water has launched four new water-saving campaigns in a bid to tackle water scarcity and safeguard against a potential drought in the summer.

According to Thames Water, despite more rainfall than average in December, flows in many tributaries of the River Thames are below average. The underground aquifers that drive the flows throughout the year also remain well below average.

In response, the water company has today (January 9) launched the latest in a series of water-saving campaigns to encourage people to “use water wisely” and protect the environmental health of the seven River Thames tributaries.

The four new campaigns are taking place in Kent, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Buckinghamshire and follow three river campaigns launched last month in Wiltshire, Berkshire and Gloucestershire.

As part of the campaign, billboard posters will be displayed in train stations, while customers will be offered free water-saving gadgets.

Thames Water sustainability director Richard Aylard, said: “We are focusing on the Thames’s tributaries that we either abstract water from directly or from underground aquifers that feed them, because the impacts of a dry year are often a lot more obvious on these smaller rivers than on the mighty River Thames.”

In 2011 only 555mm of rain fell, just 75% against the annual average of 739mm in the Thames Water region, leading to the area being classed by the Environment Agency (EA) as “seriously water-stressed”, which means all available water-abstraction points are already being used.

The company said it would need around 80% of its long-term average winter rainfall to rule out the likelihood of drought-related water-use restrictions next year.

Mr Aylard added: “We are watching the situation very carefully and if we have another dry winter then we could face a drought next summer. Winter rain is vitally important – more so than summer rain, which tends to be used up by plants and lost to evaporation – because it recharges the underground aquifers which drive flows in the rivers across the region throughout the following year. ”

Carys Matthews

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