Poor rainfall threatens summer water crisis

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The Independent Online
More than 17 million people in Britain could again face drought this summer, water officials said yesterday.

The National Rivers Authority made the forecast as scientists revealed the first week in March was one of the driest on record. Drought and water restrictions will be more severe and more widespread than those suffered during last year's long hot summer.

National Rivers Authority spokesman Brendan Paddy said: "If rainfall remains low we can expect drought in the coming summer - this may be more severe and widespread than last year."

Although rain in February was higher than normal, in January rainfall was down 25 per cent on the monthly average.

The NRA's Head of Water Resources, Jerry Sherriff, has been ordered to prepare a new assessment on the shortage of water for the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr Sherriff said: "The exceptional summer, autumn and winter drought has had a severe impact on water levels in many reservoirs. In the worst affected areas - Yorkshire the North-west, parts of the South-west and to some extent the Severn Trent area - serious water shortages now exist which could threaten supplies during the spring and summer."

The warning came as Yorkshire Water yesterday admitted mistakes in handling the drought crisis last summer. At the public inquiry into the fiasco, Trevor Newton, its managing director, who is to retire at the end of May, was forced to concede that Yorkshire Water had been unable to achieve its own targets to reduce leaks which wasted a quarter of desperately needed supplies.

Under cross-examination from the National Rivers Authority, Mr Newton said: "I fully accept that the targets set by Yorkshire Water for leakage have not been achieved. We have invested money but not got the results we expected ... Mistakes were made on PR and customer communication. We did our best but it was not good enough."