Environment Agency announces state of drought in Fenland

FENLAND is officially in a state of drought, the Environment Agency and Defra announced today.

Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and parts of West Norfolk, as well as parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, are all affected.

But Anglian Water has said there is no threat to the public water supply as there is enough water to get through the summer.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has urged people not to waste water. In a statement, she said: “Households know how to use less water and everyone can do their bit to use water more wisely, not only through the summer, but throughout the year.

“Water companies are confident that supplies are high enough so that widespread restrictions to the public are unlikely. We’re doing all we can to reduce the impact on agriculture and wildlife, but everyone can play their part.”

Utility companies, farmers, water companies and environment groups are meeting today to discuss what can be done to share resources, save water and build resilience for future dry conditions.

Although some areas across the country have benefited from recent rainfall, this has done little to improve the situation in the driest areas.

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Agriculture in particular has been affected by the dry weather, with the overall picture mixed for producers and growers.

Some horticultural crops have benefited from an earlier season and high consumer demand, but the lack of rainfall is now causing more general challenges for the sector and some cereal crops are already facing irreversible effects.

The Environment Agency is monitoring rivers and will respond quickly to pollution incidents or low oxygen levels and wildlife stranded by rivers drying up.

The organisation is working closely with farmers and other water abstractors to find ways to make water resources go further. In parts of the central Fens, some farmers and growers have volunteered to irrigate only at night, to reduce evaporation and some abstractors are forming water co-operatives to share the limited amounts available.

Dr Paul Leinster, the Environment Agency’s chief executive, said: “The Environment Agency, water companies and other water users have plans in place to cope with drought to ensure there is enough water for people, businesses and the environment.

“Many rivers have low flows as result of the dry weather which can harm wildlife and increase the impact of pollution incidents, so we are stepping up our monitoring to be able to respond quickly.

Low river flows also impact on business, as it abstracts millions of gallons from rivers on a daily basis and we need to ensure this is sustainable. It’s important that we all use water wisely at all times of the year, and especially during drought.”

The South West, South East, Midlands and Wales are also experiencing near-drought conditions following the driest spring on record since 1990. Some parts of the country have had less than 5mm of rain since February.

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