28 Mar 2012

Drought extends to parts of northern England

Weather Presenter

Drought conditions have extended to parts of northern England the Environment Agency said today, following another dry month with below average rainfall.

Cracked Ground River Bed

Parts of East and South Yorkshire from Chesterfield to Scarborough are now officially suffering from drought, with the Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull and Driffield areas affected.

Yorkshire joins south east and eastern England which have been in drought since earlier in the year, as well as parts of East Anglia that have been in drought since last summer.

The drought follows a very dry 18 months across central, southern and eastern England, which has resulted in seven water companies announcing hosepipe bans that will come into force before Easter in an attempt to conserve water supplies.

At this stage, the Environment Agency doesn’t expect the general public’s water supplies to be affected in Yorkshire, even though the rivers Don, Rother, Hull and Derwent are at low or very low levels. Yorkshire water has said that its reservoirs are currently 94 per cent full, which is normal for this time of year and are not anticipating any hosepipe bans yet.

But the concern at this stage lies in groundwater levels, which are a fifth below normal. As a result of this, the amount of groundwater being drawn from aquifers has been reduced, with water being pumped from rivers instead.

In light of the drought spreading, DEFRA has launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the connection between the health of England’s rivers and people’s water use.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “It’s especially important that we care for our rivers when they’re facing the added pressure of drought, as well as the constant threats they face from over-use and pollution.”

Whilst at this stage, public water supplies in Yorkshire remain unaffected, the Environment Agency’s head of water resources, Trevor Bishop, said: “Today south and east Yorkshire have moved into official drought status, reflecting the impact that this extremely dry period is having on the environment in the area.”

He added: “The Environment Agency must balance the water needs of people, farmers, businesses and the environment and we are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought.”

The news of drought conditions spreading to Yorkshire comes just a few weeks after the Environment Agency warned that drought would affect more parts of the country unless well above average rainfall fell.

March has been another dry month across the UK, but there are signs of a change for early April. The latest forecast suggests a trend to cooler and more unsettled weather during the next 7-10 days, with a better chance of the UK seeing some rainfall.