Much of England has declared an official drought alert for the long absence of rain. In some areas of the country there have been no significant rainfall throughout the summer, as the National Drought Groupwhich is part of the government.
Almost half of the territory of the European Union is at risk of drought
The UK Environment Agency has declared drought in eight of its 14 areas: Devon and Cornwall; Solent and South Downs; Kent and South London; Herts and North London; East Anglia; Thames; Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire; and the East Midlands.
The documents consulted Guardian show that the Environment Agency expects two other areas to enter drought by the end of August, Yorkshire and the West Midlands.
The committee met earlier this summer to discuss the lack of rain and decided to place the country in a “state of prolonged drought”, the first of four phases of drought emergency, and one step before the declaration of drought. Now, the country has passed to that second phase.
This means that water rationing can take place across the country, with fewer barriers for water companies wishing to ban customers from using hoses and washing cars with tap water. More severe measures can also be put in place at this stage, such as a ban on the use of sprinklers, cleaning of buildings, vehicles and windows.
So far this year, several water authorities in various parts of the country have banned the use of hoses, and others will do so in the coming days in regions of England and Wales.
Attendees at the meeting were shown disturbing statistics about England’s food security. Half of the potato crop is expected to be lost because it cannot be irrigated, and even drought-tolerant crops such as maize are failing.
The group was informed that “irrigation options are diminishing and reservoirs are rapidly emptying”, with losses of between 10% and 50% expected in crops such as carrots, onions, sugar beets, apples and hops. Milk production has also declined across the country due to a lack of feed for cows, and wildfires are endangering large tracts of farmland.
Farmers are deciding whether to plant next year’s crop, and it is feared that many will decide not to, with dire consequences for the 2023 crop.
The Government has insisted that essential household water supplies are not in jeopardy. “We are experiencing a second heat wave after the driest July on record in some parts of the country,” Steve Double, secretary of state for water supply. “The Government and the Environment Agency are already taking measures to manage the effects. All the water companies have assured us that essential supplies remain safe, and we have made it clear that it is their duty to maintain them.”
Although drier summers have been offset by wet autumns in previous years, meeting attendees were told that was unlikely to happen this year as arid conditions are expected to continue due to climate change. Which means that the worst effects on the water supply have not occurred.
The Environment Agency notes say that “a higher chance of warm conditions during the months of August through October corresponds to greater westerly flow from warmer-than-average seas, and to our rising temperatures. Given that there will most likely be a typical northwest (wetter) to southeast (drier) progression in precipitation, there are no clear indications of a significant improvement from current drought conditions.”
a hydrological drought
Catherine Sefton, a hydrologist at the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “In the south east of England, consistent dry weather means that many river flows remain remarkably or exceptionally low, and hydrological forecasts suggest this situation is will continue for the next few months.”
“In cases where river flows are supported by groundwater, which is recharged during the winter months, the impact of drought is reduced. But a continuation of below-average rainfall in a second winter would likely lead to severe hydrological and environmental drought, with a marked increase in water supply restrictions and fish rescues that we are beginning to see in the southeast. .”
The last time a drought was declared was in 2018. Although an investigation has yet to be conducted to determine if this year’s drought is caused by the climate crisis, the Weather Bureau determined in 2018 that dry conditions and extreme heat they were 30 times more likely due to climate change.
There have been five consecutive months of below-average rainfall across all geographic regions of England and above-average temperatures. River flows, groundwater levels and reservoir reserves decreased during the month of July. Thirteen indicator rivers monitored by the Environment Agency are at the lowest levels ever recorded and the soil moisture deficit is comparable to that observed at the end of the 1976 drought.
Scotland and Wales have similar drought response groups, which will also meet this summer following drier than usual conditions.
Translation of Celia Broncano