Applies to England and Wales
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/drought-managing-water-supply/drought-how-water-companies-plan-for-dry-weather-and-drought
Water companies in England and Wales must produce a drought plan every 5 years under the Water Industry Act 1991 as amended by the Water Act 2003. A company’s plan must state how it will maintain a secure water supply and protect the environment during dry weather and drought.
A water company’s drought plan links to its strategic 25 year water resources management plan. Read Water resources planning: managing supply and demand for more information.
The Environment Agency publishes a ‘Water company drought plan guideline’. The guideline:
- explains the process a water company is expected to follow
- what it should include in its drought plan
We update the guideline every 5 years. We consult on the update by publishing it on GOV.UK and through our e-consultation tool. We invite water companies, organisations and customers to comment.
To ask for a copy of the current drought plan guideline email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What a water company drought plan should include
A water company must state the actions it will take to prepare for long periods of dry weather. It should include the following in its drought plan.
1. Drought triggers
Water companies will monitor various indicators of water availability. At certain points, known as triggers, they will take actions to manage supplies and water demand. The drought plan sets out what these triggers are and what actions they will take.
Examples of triggers include:
- rainfall levels
- river flows
- groundwater levels
- reservoir stocks
A company should include triggers for all stages of a drought. The stages are:
- developing drought
- severe drought
- recovering from drought
2. Demand management actions
A water company must say what it will do to reduce the demand for water during a drought.
It should prioritise actions that save water before taking more water from the environment. This means that before applying for a drought permit (or order) to take more water, they should plan to:
- take actions to help customers reduce demand
- manage leakage and outage, such as the water lost from maintaining company assets
Examples of demand management actions include:
- reducing leakage
- carrying out water efficiency campaigns with customers
- reducing mains pressure
- restricting water use, for example through temporary use bans which limit hosepipe and sprinkler use
3. Supply management actions
A water company must explain how it will maintain water supply during a drought.
It must prioritise supply actions that have the least effect on the environment.
Examples of supply management actions include:
- carrying out engineering work to improve its supply
- transferring water in bulk from other water companies
- using drought permits and drought orders to abstract more water
- using desalination – permanent or temporary plants
- using tankers (lorries) to supply customers with water directly
The drought plan must include details of all the drought permits and orders a water company might apply for. A water company can apply for:
- drought permits which allow it to take more water from the environment during a drought
- drought orders which allow it to take more water from the environment or to restrict water use by other abstractors
You can ask for a copy of the Environment Agency’s supplementary guidance on ‘Drought permits and drought orders’. Email email@example.com.
4. Extreme drought management actions
A water company must explain what actions it could take in an extreme drought. These actions could delay the need to use emergency restrictions such as standpipes and rota cuts.
5. Communicating during a drought
A water company must set out how it will communicate in a clear and timely way during a drought with:
- other interested groups
6. Environmental assessment, monitoring and mitigation
A water company’s drought plan must include:
- an environmental assessment
- an environmental monitoring plan for each supply management action
- details of mitigation measures the company plans to take for each supply management action
You can ask for a copy of the Environment Agency’s supplementary guidance on ‘Environmental assessment for water company drought planning’.
7. End of a drought
In its drought plan a water company must explain how it will:
- identify when a drought is over or ending and the actions it will take during this stage
- communicate this information to its customers
- review its performance both during and after a drought
How customers can get involved
Water companies consult on their draft drought plans every 5 years and customers and organisations can comment on them.
Water companies advertise their consultations on their websites. Customers can also contact their water company to find out when they’re consulting.