Is the UK heading towards a drought and will there be a pipe ban?

Is the UK heading towards a drought and will there be a pipe ban?

England and Wales have seen the driest start of the year since 1976, when water rationing was introduced.

He raised concerns that the UK could be heading towards a drought.

Why did 2022 see drought warnings?

The National Drought Group moved England into “prolonged dry weather” – the phase before a drought – in an emergency meeting.

In the first three months of the year, rainfall in England decreased by 26% and in Wales by 22%.

This meant, even before the beginning of the summer, that the mean flow rates of the rivers were “below the norm” or “exceptionally low”.

Chart plotting the top ten warmest days recorded in the UK since 1900

Chart plotting the top ten warmest days recorded in the UK since 1900

July has repeatedly recorded temperature records and rainfall fell by 76%. Additional periods of dry and hot weather are provided by the Met Office.

These conditions were exacerbated by the excessive consumption of water. More than 28% of underground water sources are abused, the government says.

What is a drought?

A drought is declared by the Environment Agency, which coordinates the national response with water companies.

Many people define a drought as a long period without water.

But the Royal Meteorological Society says it’s not always that simple. For example, there may be agricultural droughts where there is not enough water to grow a crop.

Could there be a hose ban?

Individual water companies can introduce bans on hoses to reduce the demand for water.

These can be announced in response to the low river level.

Southern Water will introduce a hose ban on August 5th, for customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

For now, other companies have not announced a ban on piping, but customers in the south of England and the Midlands have been encouraged to use less water.

The BBC has figured out that some companies are looking back at their advice following the announcement of the National Drought Group.

What is the impact of the drought?

Effects of drought can include:

The National Farmers’ Union is watching the situation closely. Berry growers have already reported losing some of their crop.

Vegetables such as potatoes – which should be harvested next month – are particularly at risk due to their high water content.

The effects could be felt in the next year as farmers are delaying planting crops such as canola because the soil is too dry.

Recent record temperatures and very dry conditions have led to multiple fires, with significant damage to homes and lawns.

The Environment Agency oversees the UK’s aquatic life management and will move fish to other rivers if water levels drop too low, as was done in Yorkshire in July.

Outside of the UK, places like northern Italy and Portugal declared drought emergencies in the early summer and introduced water restrictions.

France, Spain and Portugal also faced significant forest fires due to drought conditions.

Graph showing four ways to save water at home

Graph showing four ways to save water at home

What happened during the 1976 and 2018 droughts?

In 1976 and 2018 the UK experienced a severe drought that lasted months.

They were caused by a prolonged period of dry weather during the spring and then an unusually hot summer.

In 1976, the Drought Act created emergency powers to shut down domestic and industrial water supplies.

In 2018, widespread drought led to crop failures, which pushed up food prices. Numerous water restrictions have been introduced.

This year saw similar conditions, with little rainfall and above-average temperatures in July.

Conditions in August will be an important factor in whether the UK enters drought again.

Could we see more droughts in the future?

The National Infrastructure Commission – which advises the government – recently said there may be more water shortages in the future, due to population growth and climate change.

He called for changes in water consumption and reductions in water losses.

In the UK, up to three billion liters of water are lost every day, enough to support 20 million people.

The Government’s Environmental Plan 25 aims to address these problems by investing in existing infrastructure and improving efficiency in homes and businesses.

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