Environment Agency moves to manage scarce water supplies across Eastern England
Action continues to manage water resources as England remains dry
Dry weather conditions and low water levels remain a concern across England and drought continues to affect many regions moving into winter, the Environment Agency said today in its latest drought management report. The report, which is published weekly, compiles the very latest rainfall, hydrology and river flow data to provide a nationwide analysis of drought management.
The counties of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and West Norfolk have seen the lowest yearly rainfall levels since 1921. As a result of ongoing dry weather, the Environment Agency has today granted a drought permit to help Anglian Water Services supply water to households and businesses in Northamptonshire. Taking early action to refill reservoirs in the winter rather than the spring ensures that the environmental impacts on local rivers are minimized.
Water companies must manage demand
The Environment Agency is also pressing water companies in affected regions to step up their campaigns to encourage their customers to use less water. Companies that apply to use for drought permits must show that they are doing everything possible to reduce water demand including implemented water saving campaigns and reducing leakage.
The Agency continues to monitor river levels across England, and is taking action to manage the environmental impact where river levels are low.
The permit being issued to Anglian Water follows careful assessment of the company’s water resources and will allow them to take water from the River Nene at Duston until April 2012 to replenish the Pitsford reservoir, which is currently less than 50 per cent full.
The Environment Agency scrutinised Anglian Water’s application to ensure that the needs of people, business and the environment can be balanced if the company takes additional water from the river.
Environmental impacts to be closely monitored
Environment Agency Chief Executive, Dr Paul Leinster said the Environment Agency has granted the permit with robust conditions that the company must comply with and will closely monitor the situation to ensure that the environmental impacts on the River Nene associated with increased water abstraction are minimised.
“Any water company applying to us for a drought permit must demonstrate that they are doing everything possible to reduce water demand, including implementing water saving campaigns and having additional maintenance teams available over the winter to deal with any increase in leakage that may occur.
“Water companies, businesses and consumers all have a role to play in making sure water is conserve to maximise the supplies available for 2012,” he said.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
“Some areas of the country have seen the driest twelve months since records began and therefore we are working with all sectors to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought.
“Water availability is one of the major challenges that the UK will face in the years ahead and while droughts are not new, we may face a future with less rainfall and less certainty about when that rain will fall.
“Next month, we will set out our plans to ensure we have a safe and secure water supply in the future.”Farmers and businesses urged to share water supplies
The Environment Agency is calling upon all water abstractors, including farmers and businesses, to look for ways to share and make the best use of limited water resources such as setting up a water abstractor group, water audits and implementing measures to improve water efficiency.
The dry start to the autumn is a concern because water resources have not recovered in many areas of England. This is an issue in central England, parts of the Cotswolds and drought-affected areas in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.
The dry conditions are now impacting further into the south east of England as reservoir and groundwater levels are currently low. Without substantial rainfall over the winter, it could mean additional pressures on water resources during summer next year.
The Environment Agency continues to work with water companies in the Midlands and the South of England to review water resources and advise on management of water.Further information
The Environment Agency gave more than 60 different organisations, including angling clubs, farming groups and other environmental organisations, the opportunity to provide feedback on the AWS drought permit application through public advertising.
The Environment Agency’s fisheries, ecology, water quality and navigation experts examined the effects of taking extra water on fish, wildlife and river flows and were satisfied that measures were in place to ensure that there would be no significant effect before issuing the permit.
Anglian Water satisfied the rigorous drought permit application process and has shown a proactive management plan for reducing customer water use, including a water demand saving campaign and a special task force to deal with mains leakage.
Anglian Water is normally licensed to take water from the River Nene only when the flow is greater than 34 mega litres per day. The current river flow is 26 to 30 mega litres which means the company has been unable to abstract any water since early summer.
The new permit will allow the company to take water as long as it does not fall below 17 megalitres per day.
A second drought permit application is expected to be received from Anglian Water to take water from the River Nene to refill Rutland reservoir.