Drought continues despite wet week

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The Independent Online

The wettest week across England and Wales since February has provided some relief for farmers and gardeners, but drought is still gripping parts of the country, the Environment Agency said today.

In its latest update on the drought, the agency said south-west England and south Wales had been particularly wet in the past week.

But so far this month central and eastern England has received less than half the average rainfall for June.

Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire and western Norfolk remain in a state of drought, the Environment Agency said.

The rain has provided a respite for farmers, boosting river levels and allowing some to abstract water again - something they had previously been prevented from doing under conditions on their licences.

However, after a brief improvement for rivers following the rain, levels are now dropping again and a number of rivers have flows which are below average for the time of year, including the Dove and Derwent in central England, Tone and Frome in south-west England and the Coln in the Thames Valley.

Despite the drought, which comes after the driest spring on record in England, most water companies have indicated that they are unlikely to need to bring in hosepipe bans this year.

Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: "Whilst the rainfall this week will not reverse the effects of the dry spring, it has provided welcome water for crops, gardens and rivers across areas affected by or at risk of drought.

"However, without further sustained rainfall, river flows will drop again, which could harm wildlife and increase the impact of pollution incidents. Our teams remain on alert to respond to environmental impacts of drought."

And he said: "The Environment Agency is working with farmers and others to balance the water needs of people, businesses and the environment.

"It's important that we all use water wisely at all times of the year, especially in dry periods."

The update from the EA comes after farmers warned that the English wheat harvest is expected to drop by 15% this year as a result of the drought conditions.

The National Farmers' Union said that although the area planted with wheat is similar to last year, production is expected to be much lower due to the extremely dry spring, particularly in the east of England - the country's "bread basket".