Why Large Parts Of England Are Now In Drought

Large parts of southern, central and eastern England have been declared drought areas.

The announcement was made by the National Drought Group, which said it was responding to the driest summer in 50 years.

It says “essential supplies of water are safe”, but water companies in the affected areas could now introduce further restrictions on water use.

Where the drought zones?

The Environment Agency (EA) says eight areas are now in drought:

It says that the West Midlands and Yorkshire are likely to be declared drought areas in the near future.

Map of existing and likely future drought areas in England

What is a drought?

A drought relates to a lack of water, but there are different types of drought.

The Royal Meteorological Society says a drought is not simply a lack of water for a specific time. For example, there can be agricultural droughts where there is not enough water to grow a crop.

The decision on whether to declare a drought in England is taken by the EA, which coordinates the response with water companies.

It says the drought announcement was based on data including rainfall, river flows, groundwater levels, reservoir levels, and the dryness of soils, as how that is affecting the public water supply, commercial water users such as farmers, and the environment.

The EA’s latest water situation report shows some river levels are at the lowest levels ever recorded.

Why are there droughts in Britain this year?

In the first three months of the year, England’s rainfall was down 26% and in Wales it was down 22%.

This meant that even before the summer started, that average river flows were “below normal” or “exceptionally low”.

Chart plotting the top ten hottest UK days on record since 1900

July saw temperature records broken multiple times and rainfall was down 76%.

These conditions have been made worse by the overconsumption of water. More than 28% of underground water sources are overused, the government says.

Drought is declared area by area, rather than for the country as a whole.

The EA says this does not automatically trigger water restrictions, but means it and the water companies will put into effect pre-arranged drought plans.

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