Why hasn't April's rain been enough to tackle the drought?
Tuesday 01 May 2012
A hosepipe ban for 20 million people in south and east England in the face of widespread drought has been followed by the wettest April on record.
But experts and water companies are still warning that the drought has not gone away - so why hasn't all the rain we have had been enough to tackle the problem?
According to the Environment Agency, the rainfall has eased the situation for farmers, gardeners and wildlife, providing much-needed water for crops as well as raising river and pond levels, which helps aquatic creatures and plants.
It has also allowed water companies and farmers to fill up on water storage more than they would normally be able to do at this time of year.
However, there have been two unusually dry years, in particular the winters, which have left soils dried out and underground aquifers depleted.
Getting enough rain in winter is important because that is when groundwater supplies - which provide much of the water supplies in the South East - can be recharged.
As we move into the summer months, rain can be good for the countryside and crops, but with most of the water taken up by plants or evaporating in warmer temperatures, it does not get down to the groundwater stores to replenish them.
And in summer, rivers are very dependent on water flowing out of the ground to maintain levels.
Pauline Smith, national drought co-ordinator for the Environment Agency, said the rain was beneficial to recharging groundwater supplies, but it was too early to tell just how much of an effect it was having.
She added: "Some of the rain will be going into the ground because we have had a whole month of spells of rain, some of them extremely heavy.
"While some of it is running off, some will be seeping into the soils and going into the ground."
But she said given that the wet April was preceded by two dry winters and that groundwater levels were at record low levels in some areas, it may not be enough to recharge supplies.
"We may need to wait until next winter to go back to normal," she said, adding that swathes of England were still in drought.
While it may seem extraordinary for there to be flooding and flood warnings in the midst of a widespread drought, it is not actually that surprising.
Before the latest downpours, the Environment Agency had been warning of the possibility of flash flooding because heavy rain can run off dry, compacted soils straight into rivers which become swollen, or causing surface water floods.
Some of the areas affected by the devastating summer floods in 2007 had experienced very dry conditions in the run-up to the heavy rain which deluged parts of the Midlands, Yorkshire and the South West in June and July of that year.
- 1 Stem cells that can kill cancer have been engineered by scientists
- 2 Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench back campaign to stop Thailand dog meat trade
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Queen's first tweet: Reply telling Her Majesty to 'f*** off' broadcast on BBC News
Stem cells that can kill cancer have been engineered by scientists
Ottawa shooting: 'Sergeant-at-arms shot suspect at point-blank range after diving around pillar'
Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
Jack Bruce dead: Cream bass player dies of liver disease aged 71
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...