UPDATED: Water restrictions expected next month

In light of today's (March 12) announcement that water restrictions are set to come into force next month, edie asks water intensive industry how it will be affected.

This follows the release of the Environment Agency’s (EA) Drought Prospects Report, which analysed 2011 rainfall levels in a bid to assess the impact these will have on the UK’s water reserves this year.

It concluded that south east England is ‘unlikely’ to recover from drought in 2012 as continued low groundwater levels increase the likelihood of water restrictions for businesses and homes in the region.

Furthermore, it anticipates that water shortages will hit farming hard, with many crops in central, eastern and southern England needing rain or irrigation. The EA also warns that farmers and growers reliant on direct abstraction from ground or surface water may need to start this process earlier.

Speaking to edie, National Farmers Union (NFU) spokesperson for the south east said that “obviously in terms of an emergency drought it is going to cause problems”, adding that while last year had been dry “this year is much more serious”.

However, she added that many farmers are collaborating to put water technologies in place, such as rainwater harvesting and onsite reservoirs.

In terms of drought affecting food prices, the NFU said this is dependent on worldwide water shortages, but admitted that arable crops such as wheat and barley could be affected.

Meanwhile, the EA warns that other water intensive business, such as large industrial abstractors which use aggregate washing and concrete production processes risk the conditions of their licenses being implemented earlier than normal.

The report also shows that groundwater recharge and reservoir refills have been “delayed” in central, south east and eastern England, with just 54 to 64% of the average rainfall falling in the autumn period.

As a result, it warns that without sustained rainfall, groundwater levels will continue to decline in east, south west, south east and central England – leading to potential water shortages.

In order to counter this, the first water restrictions – on non-essential use such as hosepipes, vehicle cleaning and ponds are expected to be made by water companies this week.

An EA spokesperson said that it is working with across the sectors to plan ahead but warns that the risks for 2012 “are rising with every additional week of dry weather”.

EA chair Lord Chris Smith, added: “We are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to meet the challenges of a continued drought. Our report urges water companies, farmers and other businesses to look again at ways to improve short term water storage, share water resources where possible, and reduce the amount they and their customers use.”

Thames Water confirmed it would be putting restrictions in place as a result of its reservoir at staying at a below average level for this time of year.

A similar forecast has been made by Sutton and East Surrey Water, Anglian, South East Water, Anglian Water, Southern Water, Veolia South East and Veolia Water East which all reported below average reservoir and or groundwater stores.

The full report can be viewed here.

How will you be affected by water restrictions? Let us know below.

Carys Matthews

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