Rain fails to alleviate drought


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The Independent Online

This week's heavy rain has not alleviated the drought gripping swathes of the country, the Environment Agency said today.

While the wet weather across England and Wales will have been beneficial for farmers and gardeners, who were hit with a hosepipe ban earlier this month, the rain has to make the soil fully wet before it can start to recharge supplies.

The rain in the past week means that the North East and Anglian regions have already had more than 90% of the average annual rainfall for April, while the South East has had 60% of the rain it would normally expect for the month.

But groundwater levels are similar to what they were last week, and many river levels remain below normal.

There are reports the River Wylye in Wiltshire and a brook at Pixley, near Ledbury, are drying up.

In its latest update on the drought, the Environment Agency said rainfall was only likely to replenish groundwater supplies if there were large amounts of steady rain in the next month or two - the chances of which were "very slim".

As the UK moves into summer, most rainfall is taken up by growing plants.

More areas slid into drought this week, with 17 counties in the Midlands and South West now officially in a state of drought, and the Environment Agency warned the situation could last until Christmas or beyond.

And heavy rain could lead to flash flooding, as dry soils do not absorb the water easily, so it runs off and causes floods, the agency has warned.

Polly Chancellor, national drought co-ordinator for the Environment Agency, said: "While we've had some welcome rain this week, the environmental drought affecting large parts of England could last until Christmas.

"The soil is so dry that only steady rain over the winter will restore rivers and groundwaters, so we would urge everyone - right across the country - to help by using less water."

She added: "We are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought."