Trevor Bishop is Head of Water Resources at the Environment Agency. Here he explains why, despite the rain, we are still in a drought.
In true bank holiday spirit the weather turned wet for the Easter holidays and it doesn’t seem to have stopped since. So is there still a drought? The answer is yes – it’s going to take more than a week or two of rain to undo the effects of nearly two years of below average rainfall. The recent rain is good for farmers and gardeners, and the cool temperatures ease the pressure on fish and wildlife in rivers. But with dry soils most of the rain will be soaked up – or, worse still, run off quickly if the surface is compacted, causing flash floods. But it won’t reach down far enough to top up groundwater, which is what we really need.
More rain now will really help us get through the summer, and is good for the environment, farmers and gardeners, but it’s very unlikely to be enough to recharge the groundwater. As we move from spring to summer, most of the rain that falls is either evaporated as temperatures rise or taken up by plants as they grow.
You can keep up to date with the water situation here. This shows that while river flows have recently risen in western and northern England and in Wales, groundwater and rivers in the south and east remain exceptionally low for this time of year. Much of our tap water in the south east comes from groundwater so it’s still important we use less water, even when it’s raining.
For a country which gets as much rain as we do there should never be a need for hosepipe bans. I consider it just poor management and lack of investment which have allowed us to get in this position where hosepipe bans happen quite frequently.
The lack of long term management vision, the short term chase for shareholder profits, the lack of competition even though the water industry has been privatised all add up to regular water hosepipe bans in a country famous for it’s rain! The perception this gives of the UK abroad is shocking. Countries in the Middle East amd Africa just see a country of incompetence.
I totally concur. Seems they are going to have to empty some of the reservoirs in the North West as they are too full, despite having lower rainfall. Why? Because they have better water management and fewer leaks.
Southern Water alone lost nearly 100 million litres of water EACH DAY (2010-2011). Just to put that in context, that’s how much water Coca-Cola claim they use EACH YEAR to make every single drop of Coca Cola.
Coca-Cola’s 2011 sustainability report states that they used 294.5 billion litres of water to make 130 billion litres of product.
Mr Bishop has presumably operated on the working assumption that there would be minimal rainfall between March and the end of the year. No doubt he would not have predicted the wettest April in history when promoting the hosepipe ban. The ban should now be lifted and, if absolutely necessary, reimposed later in the year, otherwise the credibility of the Environment Agency and the water companies is at great risk than we are of drought.