Environment Agency CEO calls for “complete gear change” in how water companies and water users think about how they use water.



The National Drought Group (NDG), made up of senior decision-makers from the Environment Agency, government, water companies and key representative groups met again (23 August) under the chairmanship of Sir James Bevan, EA Chief Executive. Water Minister Steve Double also joined the meeting.

A Defra and the Environment Agency release stated that: ‘Members agreed further steps to manage the current drought; to start work now to reduce the risk of drought next year; and to accelerate measures to ensure long-term water security.

Despite the recent scattered rainfall, this has been the driest summer for fifty years, and the driest ever recorded for Southern England. The prolonged hot dry weather has led to exceptionally low river flows and low groundwater levels and a decline in reservoir levels with some well below average for the time of year. We have also seen a very large increase in demand for water and significant environmental impacts, with rivers and ponds drying out and fish and other wildlife dying or in distress.

Large parts of the country are now in drought status: ten of the Environment Agency’s 14 areas are now in drought.

The recent rainfall in some parts of the country is not enough to replenish rivers, groundwater or reservoirs to normal levels. That will require a return to sustained average or above average rainfall over the coming months. Until – and unless – that happens, many areas will remain in drought.’

EA Chief Executive Sir James Bevan said: “Water pressures on wildlife and the environment remain high and despite recent rainfall and the pause in the hot dry weather, we must continue to manage water wisely.

Both for the coming year and, with the impact of climate change, for the coming decade, a complete gear change is needed for how water companies and all water users, from farmers to households, think about how they use water and understand its fundamental value. This summer should be a wake-up call for how the nation prepares for weather extremes and how we make the very best use of our water resources.”

Water Minister Steve Double said: “We know essential water supplies are safe – but more work must be done to ensure that we push forward investment to cut leaks and better prepare for prolonged dry weather for this year, next year and the coming decade.”

The story was covered in the Independent and WaterBriefing, amongst others. The full news piece from Defra and Environment Agency can be read here.

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