All you needed to know about the drought ...

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The Independent Online
What? Drought again? Surely we're one of the wettest countries in the world.

Not so. Some west-facing mountain slopes in Cumbria, are pretty damp, with more than quarter of an inch a day. But that's four times as much as the south east and East Anglia. New York, Rome, Lisbon and Paris, all get more rain in the average year than London.

Yes, but aren't there plenty of developed countries less rained on than ours which get by without water shortage after water shortage?

There are. But our water supplies are set up to handle average rainfall and the occasional dry spell. These have become more common, the last 24 months being the driest in England and Wales since records began.

Is this man-made climate change at work?

No scientist who values her or his reputation would say so, but more and more privately think it might be. Scientists cannot yet predict how the build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere will change the climate of whole continents, let alone that of small countries like the UK

Are all the hosepipe bans and other restrictions and shortages we've had since 1989 due to drought alone?

No. Overall demand for tapwater in England and Wales has risen by 30 per cent over 20 years. As people have become more affluent they want more water, for their gardens, dishwashers, car washing etc.

Why not build more reservoirs, or bring the water over from the wetter parts of the country using canals and rivers and big pipelines?

It may come to that, but it will cost millions and put bills up. The water companies want to build new reservoirs but are also laying emphasis on restraining their customers' rising demand.

Couldn't it all be solved if the water company fat cats were made to end all the leakage from their mains?

No. Thames and Welsh Water lose 28 per cent, and Yorkshire and North West leak 26 per cent, according to the industry regulator Ofwat. Southern and Anglian lose only 13 per cent. Companies are being made to reduce wastage but it would be very expensive to build a system with no leaks.

Well, you seem to have plenty of answers. What's the solution?

There are no simple solutions. There is an excellent case for richer homes with gardens and outside taps to install water meters. Householders and businesses need more advice to reduce their leaks. Government should give more leadership. Every garden should have a water butt. And mow your lawn less short - it retains water better.

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