Spelman calls drought summit following CEH report
Thursday 16 February 2012
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has called an emergency drought summit following the release this week of a report from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which reveals the UK is almost certain to suffer from a lack of water over the summer.
The report showed the UK has experienced its driest winter since 1972, the last severe drought year. The meeting will be attended by NGOs, water companies, farming groups and wildlife charities in an attempt to find solutions to the fast approaching problem. Many farmers have begun creating their own water stores as the prospect of drier summers and less rainfall looks more likely.
Parts of South and East England have been in drought conditions since last year and water firms have suggested they may announce restrictions later in the year, which will almost certainly affect irrigation. In its latest monthly hydrological summary, the CEH warned that the window of opportunity for further substantial aquifer recharge (before evaporation prevents underground aquifers from recharging effectively) is rapidly closing and that much of the country requires sustained, heavy rainfall to avoid drought conditions this summer.
Ms Spelman said, "All of our activity is going to be carefully coordinated so that we are able to minimise the effects of unpredictable water availability and support people in doing the right thing in taking sensible measures to save water. It is imperative that we have a system in place that can provide a secure water supply for the future, at the same time as we continue to protect the environment."
The latest forecasts suggest that fully half of all households in the UK could face restrictions on usage in 2012. CEH spokesperson Terry Marsh cautioned, “It is now virtually inevitable that a significant degree of drought stress will be experienced in 2012. The magnitude of that stress, and its spatial extent, will be heavily influenced by rainfall over the next eight to ten weeks.”
Commenting on the summit, Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said the agency is "Planning for the worst".