The National Drought Group (NDG), chaired by the Environment Agency’s Chief Executive, brings together government departments, water companies, environmental groups and others to coordinate action to maintain water supplies and manage the other risks associated with drought. The NDG convened today (Monday 23 July) to assess the present situation and coordinate plans for the weeks ahead.
The present situation and the prospects
We are in a continuing period of prolonged hot and dry weather. June 2018 was the driest June since 1925, with a rainfall total for England of only 15 mm.
One water company, United Utilities, has announced its intention to impose a hosepipe ban (“Temporary Use Ban”) in parts of the North West from 5 August. The other water companies do not currently intend to introduce hosepipe bans, and there is no threat to essential public water supplies. But continued dry weather into autumn could see the risk of some further restrictions and further environmental impacts across the country.
Action we are taking
The water companies, the Environment Agency and others are taking action to reduce the risk of further water restrictions and to ensure that water users and the environment itself continue to get the water they need. Participants agreed to step up their activity on all fronts.
The water companies are stepping up action to sustain a reliable water supply to their customers. They:
- Have put additional resources in place to do so.
- Are implementing their contingency drought plans as appropriate.
- Are actively advising customers on water efficiency and offering free water saving devices.
- Are stepping up their efforts to find and fix leaks to protect supplies and help reduce the risk of further hosepipe bans
- Are taking a range of other steps to sustain supply, including water trading between companies and additional measures to keep farmers and other customers supplied with a particular focus on vulnerable customers.
The Environment Agency is:
- Actively monitoring the water situation and the environment, analysing the prospects and sharing its analysis with others.
- Working with the water companies to ensure they are following their drought plans and implementing actions in a timely way.
- Working closely with the Met Office on how their weather forecast will affect the water situation.
- Working with businesses, farmers and others who abstract water under licence from the EA to manage down demand and protect the environment, using its regulatory powers as necessary.
- Stepping up engagement to encourage the public and others to cut down on non-essential water use.
- Operating water transfers such as the Shropshire Groundwater Scheme to help maintain river flows for water supply and the environment.
- Stepping up its incident response to ensure the environment is protected - responding to 50% more hot weather incidents, including fish kills.
- Moving its operations to higher alert status and increasing staff resources to support its own work and those of partners in affected areas.
- Leading by example: EA fleet vehicles and office windows will not be cleaned to avoid unnecessary water usage.
- The National Farmers Union (NFU) and farmers are working closely with the EA, Internal Drainage Boards, water companies and Defra to manage the situation and sustain farming production, including through water trading and abstraction restrictions that are now in place in some catchments.
- The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have produced top tips for farmers on coping with drought and heat.
- The Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) are closing some navigations to save water, providing information to boat users on the situation and asking them to consider sharing locks where possible – as they always do in summer.
- The Angling Trust have distributed guidance to their members on fishery management during hot and dry weather. Anglers can report any fish in distress to the Environment Agency hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
- Other partners are taking action to preserve water supplies, sustain economic and leisure activity and protect as far as possible the environment, rivers, lakes and wildlife.
Advice to the public
Please use water wisely. Prolonged dry weather and localised drought is not unusual. Water companies plan for periods of exceptionally low rainfall. There is enough water for all if water resources are managed properly. All of us can play a role. We encourage everyone to follow the advice of their water company and use water wisely. This will help protect the environment and the economy, and reduce the risk of further water restrictions.
Enhanced coordination and next NDG meeting
The NDG agreed to step up coordination between its members to maintain a common assessment of the situation and ensure the closest possible cooperation to address the current challenges; and agreed to meet again on 29 August.