Allotments in Bristol. The Met Office has issued an amber warning for extreme heat covering four days from Thursday to Sunday for parts of England and Wales. Picture date: Saturday August 13, 2022.

All of South West England is now in drought

A drought has been declared for the whole region of South West England, the Environment Agency has announced.

Earlier this month Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were placed in a state of drought.

The domains that have been added are:

• Bristol
• Somerset
• Dorset
• South Gloucestershire
• Parts of Wiltshire

This means that 11 of the 14 areas covered by the Environment Agency in England have been declared to be experiencing drought.

It comes after the country was scorched by a period of high temperatures and the driest conditions in nearly 90 years.

Although the regions have seen some rainfall over the past fortnight, it has not been “enough to compensate for the long dry spell of recent months”, the agency said.

The announcement means residents may see restrictions placed on domestic and commercial water use.

Although these actions are not automatically implemented, the transition to drought status means that the Environment Agency and water companies can implement stages of previously agreed plans.

These plans take into account local factors, including rainfall, the amount of water remaining in rivers, reservoirs and lakes, as well as temperature forecasts and water demand.

Fields of dry grass beside the M32 motorway in Stoke Park, Bristol

Read more: What happens during a drought and how can you help?

Many rivers showing ‘lowest flows ever’

The latest areas to transition to drought status experienced low river flows as a result.

“Despite heavy rains over the past two weeks, it hasn’t been enough to fill our rivers and aquifers,” said Chris Paul, the agency’s drought zone manager.

“River levels in our region of Wessex are exceptionally low – many are showing the lowest flows on record.

“This is putting incredible pressure on local wildlife and that is why we are moving to drought status. We are prioritizing our local operations to minimize environmental impacts.”

Critical water supplies for the areas are secure, but water companies have been urged to continue their precautionary planning to protect them in case the fall is particularly dry.

A view of a dry riverbed of the River Thames near Somerford Keynes in Gloucestershire, as parched parts of England face a garden hose ban in very dry conditions and ahead of another heat wave planned.  Months of low rainfall, combined with record high temperatures in July, left rivers at unusually low levels, depleted reservoirs and dried out soils.  Picture date: Friday August 5, 2022.
Dried up river bed near Somerford Keynes in Gloucestershire

Read more:
Garden hose ban: what are the rules – and what are the exemptions?
What and where is the “exceptional” fire hazard – and how to avoid it

Driest July since 1935 – but wet winter could help

The Environment Agency’s national water situation report shows that last month was the driest July in England since 1935.

For five consecutive months, the country has experienced below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures, resulting in lower river flows, groundwater levels and reservoir stocks, the agency added.

Experts have said sufficient rainfall over the fall and winter would allow stocks to rebuild to normal levels in the spring, but planning should start now on how to handle shortfalls in 2023 if the months to come are dry.

Please use Chrome browser for more accessible video player

How to protect yourself from the water crisis?

Extremely hot and dry conditions have also affected crops, fueling forest fires and leading to a sharp increase in water demand.

Six water companies – Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Yorkshire Water, South West Water and Welsh Water – have already implemented or announced garden hose bansas part of drought relief efforts.

However, water companies have been criticized for high rates of water leakage from the network, profits and the dumping of sewage into rivers and the sea during recent heavy rains.

Drought is also hitting much of Europe, with conditions worsening in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

All of South West England is now in drought

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.