England Declares it’s Officially in a Drought
The Environment Agency declared on Monday, April 16th, that the England Midlands are officially in a drought after the driest winter season plagued 17 counties in 2011. A second winter season with below average rainfall, at just about 40% in February and March, has led to England’s wetlands and rivers thirsty for water.
Although here in the states we just had a week of pouring rain, England was left shorthanded and parched. Worries are raising that the drought could extend throughout the summer into Christmas time if they don’t see any sustained rainfall soon. As of now, there are no plans to put any water restrictions on businesses, local farmers, or residents but the Environmental Agency is urging people to practice water savings techniques. Ben Johnstone, strategic drought manager for the Environment Agency in the South West, said, “The status reflects the impact this extended dry period is having on the environment and we are asking everyone to use water wisely.”
A garden hose ban has already been implemented for 20 million people living in south and central England before. Johnstone goes on to explain that the amount of water used by the people effects what is left for wildlife and rivers so they plan to monitor the situation accordingly. They also suspect that if rainfall doesn’t return soon then the rivers will end up completely dry which could result in fish, crayfish, flies, and plant deaths. The rivers and wetlands would essentially be evaporated which could mean bad news for the valuable wild fish that frequently spawn there. Frogs and toads, in particular, have been heavily affected by the drought because of the lack of moisture needed for mating season.
The Robert Lasseter, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said that they need rain bad but there is no reason to panic yet because they still may see a good harvest coming. In the month of March, the midlands received only 35% rainfall compared to what they normally see at that time of year. Groundwater levels are not being replenished and smaller intermittent streams have already started to dry up. Months of sustained rainfall would be able to restore the rivers and groundwater supplies.
The rivers affected by the drought are the River Lathkill in Derbyshire and four midland rivers that also had record lows of average flow during the month of March. These included the River Tern at Walcot, River Leadon, River Sow, and River Soar.
The Environment Agency has already rescued fish from River Lathkill in Derbyshire when the river started to recede four months ago. They plan to continue to inspect the rivers and rescue any wildlife that seems in distress. As part of stream recovery initiatives, Wessex Water is pumping 20 million liters of water a day into the catchments in Dorset and Wiltshire.
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said that the levels in some of the English Rivers have already surpassed the levels at the peak of the drought in 1976. England usually sees some rain during summer months and fingers are crossed that it will come through. If it doesn’t, than it could have severe impacts on the agriculture and farming in the region in addition to the precious wildlife and biodiversity of their ecosystems.
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