East Anglia and south east England are in drought.
Current situation in the South East
On Monday 20 February, the Environment Secretary announced that the South East of England has officially moved into drought status. The affected counties are Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent, Surrey, London, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and the east of Gloucestershire.
The drought is caused by the combination of persistent dry weather and the continuing decline in groundwater levels and river flows. It will result in an increasing risk to public water supplies, agriculture and the environment.
The South East of England continues to experience dry weather. The region has received only 40 percent of the February long term average rainfall . Soil moisture deficits remain and river flows and groundwater levels are very low in some areas.
The risk of drought in the spring and summer is high because there is little of the winter recharge period left for significant recovery of groundwater.
For more detailed information (including maps and graphs) on current rainfall levels, soil moisture deficits, river flows, groundwater levels and reservoir stocks, please see our latest monthly water situation report.
What does the drought mean for the environment?
The Environment Agency are responsible for monitoring, reporting and acting to reduce the impact of drought on the environment. We balance the water needs of people, businesses and the environment by regulating how much water can be taken from rivers and groundwater. We are implementing our drought plan for the South East which sets out how we will manage water resources and protect the environment during a drought.
We need a substantial amount of rain over the next couple of months to improve the situation. As we move into spring and temperatures increase, the environment may become more stressed. If the dry weather continues we can expect to see low flows, lower dilution of effluent discharges and fish in distress. Algal blooms can form in lakes, ponds and slow moving water, which can kill fish and other aquatic life. Wetlands and plants on the edge of rivers can struggle to survive. Away from rivers, droughts can affect natural vegetation and crops. These impacts can be made worse if we get hot weather.
As the situation develops it is important that we monitor drought impacts in the area. Members of the public should report any environmental incidents to the Environment Agency's 24 hour hotline - 0800 80 70 60. Examples of things you might see that need to be reported are:
· Green coloured water (algal bloom)
· Groups of fish clearly in distress 'gasping' at the water surface
· Evidence of dead or dying fish.
Public water supply
Reservoir stocks (including Farmoor and the West London reservoirs) remain healthy for this time of year .
We are in pre-application discussions with Thames Water for a drought permit to increase abstraction from the lower Thames to fill the London reservoirs, and up to five drought permits in its Swindon and Oxford supply zone.
Water companies have announced they will be implementing water restrictions from 5 April 2012. These will affect the majority of customers in the South East. Anyone not sure if they are affected should check with their water supply company.
The restrictions primarily cover domestic use and include:
· Watering of public parks, gardens and allotments
· Filling swimming pools, paddling pools, ponds and fountains
· Any apparatus connected to a hosepipe e.g. using a hosepipe to wash a car.
The restrictions will help to reduce the overall amount of water that is needed and help safeguard supplies for drinking and household use.
What can the public do to help?
Everyone can do their bit by using water wisely. To save water at home and in the garden:
· Turn off taps when you brush your teeth, shave or wash your hands. Take a quick shower instead of a bath.
· Install a water saving device in your toilet cistern.
· Use a watering can instead of a hosepipe and install a water butt to capture rain.
· Do not water the lawn with mains water Grass is hardy and will grow back, even if it turns brown.
Visit the Environment Agency and water company websites for more information on ways to help save water.
Drought Prospects Report
The Environment Agency's national Drought Prospects report was published on 12 March 2012. The report sets out the current water resource situation and gives an indication of drought prospects through spring and summer 2012.
The Drought Prospects report and all the latest information on the drought can be found on the Environment Agency's website at: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/drought/
More information on the water restrictions can be found on the water company websites.
Environment Agency - http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/drought/
South East Water – http://www.southeastwater.co.uk
Veolia Central Water - https://central.veoliawater.co.uk/index.aspx
Sutton & East Surrey Water - www.waterplc.com/