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Devon officially a drought area

Drought areas in a shade of parched orange (image courtesy: Environment Agency)

Water levels low and dropping

Devon has been officially declared a drought zone, along with Cornwall and parts of southern and central England.

After the driest summer in nearly 50 years, people are being advised to take care over how much water they use.

Unlike the last big drought in 1976, people are not yet being encouraged to share baths. In those days, baths were more popular than showers.

The last drought in England was 2018, but through the 70s and 80s they were a regular feature of summer.

Water companies won't be happy. They make money be selling metered water. But their product is running dry.

The Environment Agency says it has looked at data around rainfall, river flows, groundwater levels, reservoir levels, and the dryness of soils, as well as the impacts these conditions have on public water supply, abstractors (including farmers) and the environment.

The agency and water companies will now press ahead with implementing the stages of their pre-agreed drought plans. These plans follow local factors including reservoir levels, demand and forecasts, and lead to precautionary actions such as Temporary Use Bans.

The agency says essential supplies of water are safe. Water companies have a duty to ensure these supplies and have reassured regulators and Government that they will remain resilient across the country. Defra and the Environment Agency are urging water companies to continue with their precautionary planning to protect essential supplies in the event of a dry autumn.
In drought affected areas the public and businesses should be very mindful of the pressures on water resources and should use water wisely. But while there is an important role for individuals to sustainably manage their usage, Government expects water companies to act to reduce leakage and fix leaking pipes as quickly as possible and take wider action alongside government policy. 

Steve Marks, the Environment Agency’s drought lead for Devon and Cornwall said: “With continuing exceptionally dry and hot weather, river levels across Devon and Cornwall are exceptionally low - many showing the lowest flows on record - this places incredible strain on local wildlife and this is why Devon and Cornwall are moving to drought status.  We are prioritising our local operations to minimise impacts on the environment."

 Action being taken across the two counties includes monitoring the effects of the dry weather on rivers, ensuring people and companies who have water abstraction licences only operate within the terms of their licence and taking legal action against those who fail to comply or anyone who abstracts water without a licence, and responding to environmental emergencies, such as rescuing stranded fish.
Harvey Bradshaw, Environment Agency executive director for the environment and chair of the NDG, said: “The current high temperatures we are experiencing have exacerbated pressures on wildlife and our water environment.
“EA staff are doing an excellent job responding to environmental impacts and working with water companies to make sure they are following their drought plans.
“Today’s meeting has helped to build on our coordinated action to manage water supplies, consider water users and protect the environment. We urge everyone to manage the amount of water they are using in this exceptionally dry period.”


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