Nationally, at the start of June, river flows, groundwater levels and soils were normal for the time of year in most areas of England. This followed the rain in early spring which helped groundwaters in the South East to recover from previously low levels. However, a natural reduction in river flows and groundwater levels at this time of year is to be expected and water companies plan for these summer months.
Although it has been a mixed picture across North West England, prolonged low rainfall across the North West since early May, has reduced river flows, reservoir and lake levels.
United Utilities, the Water Company for the North West, are now taking the steps outlined in their 2018 Drought Plan in light of the dry weather. It means they have stepped up their planning and will continue to manage the situation in line with their dry weather processes.
Currently, some key United Utilities storage reservoirs have reduced levels following this dry weather period. Haweswater - part of United Utilities regional integrated water resource zone - has dropped below its first and second drought trigger. Ennerdale, has now dropped below its first drought trigger.
In West Cumbria, passing the first drought trigger increases the likelihood of United Utilities having to increase the amount of water supplied from boreholes, to ensure they continue to protect the sensitive natural environment around Ennerdale and the River Ehen.
Drought trigger 2 is the second of four checkpoints to ensure that during periods of dry weather United Utilities are taking all appropriate actions to manage water resources effectively. As usual, they will be monitoring the situation throughout the summer, and continue to use their integrated water network to move supplies around the region to balance the needs of customers and the environment.
As you will be aware, United Utilities has also started a public awareness campaign which is currently under way on regional radio, newspapers and direct to customers to promote water saving tips to help manage demand, and publicising their leakline.
We are working together with United Utilities to minimise any potential impacts to people and the environment should the dry weather continue. Robust and well-tested plans are in place to help ensure that, at all times, we make the best use of the water available and minimise any potential impacts to people, the environment and tourism. We are regulating water company and non-water company abstractions and advising businesses and farmers on water usage.
Our teams are monitoring for environmental impacts, responding to incidents across the region, where required, and taking action to protect the environment.
What can you do?
Water is a precious resource and it is always helpful, in terms of future supplies and protecting the environment, for everyone to follow advice on saving water from their water company and use water wisely. The average person in England uses 140 litres per day. We all need to increase the amount of water we save to protect our natural environment and drinking water supplies.
United Utilities’ top tips for saving water, energy and money include the following:
1. Only wash full loads in your washing machine or dishwasher
2. Use a bucket and sponge to wash your car, rather than a hose-pipe
3. Have a four-minute shower, instead of a bath
4. Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth
5. Install a water butt to collect rainwater for watering your garden (see our website for discounted products)
6. Water your garden early in the morning or in the evening, when it is cooler.
You can read more on their website at www.unitedutilities.com.
As always, if people see any environmental impacts due to dry weather, such as low flows, fish in distress or algae blooms, please report it to the Environment Agency incident line on 0800 80 70 60 so we can investigate and minimise any potential impacts on the environment.
The Met Office are forecasting that we’re likely to continue to see a good deal of dry and fine weather this summer, and we all need to contribute to ensure that, at all times, we make the best use of the water available and minimise any potential impacts to people and the environment.