East Anglia and South East England are still in drought, despite April’s record rainfall.
An Environment Agency report released last week said groundwater levels in major aquifers were still “exceptionally low” for the time of year, despite rainfall in the South East last month being 225% of the long term average.
The rain has filled reservoirs to the extent that stocks at only one reservoir in the drought region - Southern Water’s Bewl Water in Kent - are deemed to be “low”, at around 70% of capacity.
But water companies in the drought-hit areas of England rely on boreholes and aquifers for between 24% and 85% of their supplies, and these are not recharging quickly enough to take the region out of drought.
Veolia Water water resources manager Mike Pocock said: “The critical period for recharging our aquifers is between October and March each year.
“A large proportion of the recent rain has run off the surface into rivers, or has been absorbed by the soil, with only limited water recharge of our groundwater aquifers.”
He added that “prolonged and substantial rainfall over a longer period than one month”, as has just been experienced, would be needed to recharge the aquifers.
Sutton & East Surrey Water, which gets 85% of its water supplies from the ground, says boreholes are “at record low levels” and are showing no signs of recovering.
The company’s operations director Mike Hegarty said: “The ground at the end of March was like a hard old sponge. First the water runs off, then it gets damp, then soaked, and only after that does any water percolate down to the aquifer.
“And as soon as the rain stops the ‘sponge’ starts to dry out again due to evaporation and rapid plant growth.”