Hosepipe ban demanded to stem drought

A A A

Hosepipe bans for much of south-east England should be imposed immediately to limit the impact of one of the worst winter droughts on record, the Government's environmental watchdog has warned.

The Environment Agency has asked water companies in the South to ban hosepipes from next month to prevent more extreme measures being introduced this summer such as standpipes in the street and rota cuts in domestic supplies.

The agency said that the South-east was facing one of the most serious droughts for a century and water companies could not afford to be complacent about the low water levels in reservoirs and underground aquifers.

"Groundwater levels in some areas are the lowest on record and rainfall during winter has been the lowest since the drought of 1920-22," said Baroness Young of Old Scone, the agency's chief executive.

"We're seeing an impact on the environment, where fish-spawning in some areas has been poor, and we're concerned that we may soon see fish dying because of low river levels," Lady Young said.

Much of the country has experienced a drier-than-normal winter and, for the second consecutive winter, the South-east in particular has suffered exceptionally low rainfall.

The 15 months from October 2004 to January 2006 has been the driest period in the South-east since 1921, according to the Environment Agency.

Terry Marsh, a senior hydrologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), said winter rain was crucial to replenish underground stores which provide much of the drinking water for the South-east.

But the current drought is not likely to be as severe on a national scale as that of 1976, when much of the country had little or no rain for most of the summer after a dry winter, Mr Marsh said.

"In 1976 we had an extremely dry winter but now we've had two dry winters and it's most evident in a few chalk streams, where flows are currently just below those of 1976," Mr Marsh said. "We're seeing a drought that is pretty severe because it's not the sort of thing that happens every five years or so."

Mr Marsh supported the Environment Agency's call for stringent controls on water use such as a ban on non-essential activities such as washing windows and watering parks.

"If you're facing climatic circumstances that are as bad in some parts as anything we've seen since the 1930s, then restrictions in water usage are an appropriate response, both to preserve stocks for the public supply and to protect the environment," he said. A hydrological report by the CEH and British Geological Survey found that rainfall in January across much of the country was less than 40 per cent of normal levels, with some parts of the South less than 20 per cent below average.

"Last year, the same period was only marginally wetter and, taken together, they closely match 1962-64 as the driest successive November-January periods since 1932-34," the report said.

"Substantially drier 15-month periods have been recorded for England and Wales (such as in 1975/76 and 1933/34) but a distinguishing feature of the current drought is the disproportionate contribution of the winter months to the overall rainfall deficiency," the report continued.

"Correspondingly, the impact on reservoir and aquifer replenishment and on river flows has been severe in many areas."

Winter rainfall soaks through the soil to refill aquifers that have been depleted during the summer months.

With just a few weeks of winter left it is unlikely that there will be enough rainfall to avoid a summer drought in many parts of the South-east.

How it will affect wildlife

TREES AND WOODLAND: A summer drought after a winter drought will put all trees in danger.

GRASSLANDS: Most grasses die during droughts but can recover once the rain returns.

BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS: Most species do relatively well in a summer drought.

GROUND BEETLES: Some do well while others will be more affected by the drought.

SALMON: Adult salmon stay lower down river in droughts, which means mortality rates are higher.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own