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National Drought Group preps local authorities for drought measures

A hot August, combined with July’s record-breaking temperatures, place swathes of England at risk of drought conditions, experts warn. 

Dry conditions in spring and early summer, combined with thermometers exceeding 40C for the first time in UK history, have left many parts of England in ‘prolonged dry weather’ status, the first of four categories that signify drought.

The National Drought Group, which is made up of water companies, the Environment Agency, National Famers’ Union, and other bodies, only convenes when circumstances demand it. The organisation met on Tuesday 26th July 2022 to discuss the situation and agree on plans if circumstances do not improve. 

Meteorologists and academics are now holding out hope for a return of rainy weather in the immediate future to avoid several areas in England tipping into the second ‘drought stage’, not seen since the summers of 2018-19 and 2011-12. At this point there is a significantly heightened risk steps including hose pipe bans and other water usage restrictions may be introduced. Already, Southern Water has applied for a drought permit to continue using the River Test for tap water supplies as the Hampshire chalk stream is currently experiencing rapidly falling water levels. 

The warm weather has also limited grass growth, in turn threatening feed supplies for winter, raising alarm bells among farmers, who have already reported being forced to irrigate crops early. The next two months are expected to be critical in terms of crop yields for the year. Meanwhile, fish rescues have also increased as a result of hot conditions, with more species struggling with higher than normal temperatures and lower levels of oxygen in water supplies. A second heatwave may be on the way, too, with fears that August may not bring about the heavy rain needed to avert the crisis.

In addition to the devastating impact on water supplies, London only just avoided major power outages as a result of last week’s heatwave. 

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