Action should be taken now to protect water supplies for business, agriculture, the environment and people, tominimise the risk of water restrictions in the future, the Environment Agency has said.
In a new report, the Agency recommends that more farmers should invest in winter storage and that water companies plan ahead for more long, dry periods and continue running campaigns to encourage customers to reduce water.
The Drought Prospects report was commissioned by the government in response to the recent widespread drought across eastern England. It has been sent to environment secretary Caroline Spelman.
The report shows that a dry winter could lead to significant problems in drought-hit areas next year and urges action to minimise the impacts.
This year’s drought has left public water supplies largely unaffected. However, businesses which pump water from rivers have seen some restrictions put in place to prevent damage to the environment.
Farmers have been hardest hit, since they rely heavily on abstractions from rivers to irrigate crops during the spring and summer.
Key findings and recommendations
The Environment Agency report includes the following key findings and recommendations:
- Water companies in drought affected areas should follow their drought plans which include co-ordinated campaigns for using water wisely, targeted at domestic and business users.
- Water companies should also prepare plans based on different rainfall scenarios that might occur during the winter, so they are ready to take action if necessary
- Farmers should act now to consider how to meet their future water needs. They can become more drought resilient by constructing reservoirs – those farmers who do not have a winter storage reservoir should investigate whether building one is feasible and possible sources of financial support.
- Farmers need to work together to develop solutions to ensure current supplies last as long as possible. This could include the continuation of ‘water cooperatives’ to share water and applying voluntary restrictions when required to avoid formal measures.