11 May 2012

Parts of England no longer in drought

Weather Presenter

The Environment Agency announces that a large part of England is no longer in drought following the wettest April on record in the UK and a wet start to May.

South west England, the Midlands and parts of Yorkshire have lost their drought status after the recent heavy rainfall significantly increased river and reservoir levels, reducing pressure on the environment and public water supplies.

The Environment Agency also said that in these areas, it is now unlikely that water companies will impose hosepipe bans during the summer. However, despite lifting the drought status, it stressed that groundwater levels are still low across all parts of England and Wales.

Up until the start of April, England had seen around 18 months of very low rainfall – the driest on record in some areas. This lack of rainfall also included two consecutive dry winters which exacerbated the problem greatly.

Winter is a time of year when groundwater levels experience their main period of recharge because evaporation rates are low. Also less water is taken up by the roots of plants as it is outside of the growing season.

These factors combined mean that more water remains in the soil and percolates deep down into the water table. However, for the past two winters this hasn’t happened, resulting in the drought conditions parts of England during the last year.

Whilst south east England and East Anglia have also experienced heavy rainfall in recent weeks, these parts of England remain in drought with some water companies still having hosepipe bans in place.

This is because in this part of the UK, around 50 per cent of the public water supply is provided by groundwater sources and at present, they remain notably or exceptionally low for this time of year.

Despite some parts of England no longer being in drought, the Environment Agency warn that should an extended spell of dry weather happen again in coming months, the drought area could expand once more.

Dr Paul Leinster, Environment Agency Chief Executive, said: “The Environment Agency will continue to keep a close eye on the situation. Low groundwater levels remain a concern across many parts of England, with many still at a similar level to those in 1976 and unlikely to return to normal levels before the winter. A return to a long period of dry weather would increase the risk again.”

In the coming weeks, the weather isn’t likely to be as continually wet as what was experienced during April, but there will be rain at times which will help to maintain the gains in river and reservoir levels seen during the past month.

The 19 areas that are no longer in drought are: South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, parts of Gloucestershire, parts of Hampshire, most of Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.