Why hasn't April's rain been enough to tackle the drought?

 

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.

PA

Suggested Topics
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?