No, Protect Kent are not stating that there will be a drought next year – but that is only because there has not been any formal declaration made to that effect! However, based on the current water resources situation, the risk of parts of Britain, especially the South East, enduring drought measures next summer is becoming very likely.
Autumn has come and gone, but the usual weather patterns and rainfall were noticeably absent. November continued a pattern set in the preceding months of Autumn, receiving under 60% of the rainfall that is considered ‘normal’ for this month. Reports from the Environment Agency show that “the last three months have been the fifth driest September – November period since 1910” and “2011 has experienced the fourth driest January to November period”.
However, should our weather ‘return to normal service’ over December and the following months, and we receive rainfall commensurate with this time of year, drought measures can be avoided. This will in part be due to appropriate measures incorporated within water companies’ Water Resource Management Plans – something Protect Kent have encouraged in the past.
So what does next year have in store for us ‘water-wise’?
Well, the first Drought Order in the South East is likely to be in operation in early January. South East Water have applied to Defra for a specific Order, to enable them to replenish stocks in Ardingly Reservoir (serving 72,000 homes across East and West Sussex) over the winter period. This will happen irrespective of future rainfall, as the amount of “usable” water currently available in the reservoir is only about 12%.
Should a formal drought be declared, then we must expect to see a number of other applications for Drought Orders being issued by water companies. In Kent, our major surface water source is Bewl Water, near Lamberhurst, which was approaching minimum levels at the end of November. But at the moment Southern Water are just keeping a watchful eye on the situation. Thankfully, in Kent, around 70% of our potable water is supplied from groundwater sources, which at present are generally healthy.
Protect Kent will also be keeping a watchful eye on the situation … and you can expect to read more about this serious issue, should the situation worsen.