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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Take showers instead of baths to save water, minister urges as drought is officially announced

By Daily Mail Reporter

-People are being urged to shower rather than bath
-Driest Spring in nearly 100 years but Snowdonia is covered in a thin layer of snow
-East Anglia officially in drought but other parts such as South West, South East, Midlands and Wales are nearing drought conditions

Chilly: While some parts of the country are experiencing near drought, this picture shows a thin layer of snow at the Snowdonia Mountain Railway

People are being urged to shower rather than bath in a bid to try and save water.
Farmers could also be warned to stop taking water from rivers while some businesses have been told they may have to share resources.

Although some areas in the UK are experiencing higher temperatures than normal, North Wales appears to be going through a rather chilly spell.

This picture of the Snowdownia Mountain Railway, covered in a thin layer of snow, was taken only days ago and is in stark contrast to recent pictures of parched reservoirs.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said it was not necessary for a hosepipe ban yet but she urged families to try and save water and consider showering instead of taking.

The Environment Agency has also officially declared East Anglia as officially being in the middle of a drought while other parts of the country, such as the South West, South East, Midlands and Wales are nearing drought conditions.

The announcement comes amid fears of an imminent hosepipe ban in Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire, along with low rivers levels and very dry soil in the driest Spring in 100 years.

Meanwhile, Severn Trent Water has warned customers they may face restrictions unless there is a quick return to normal levels of rainfall.

Bucket in hand, six-year-old Leon Thompson wanders across the cracked and dried-out soil exposed at Cod Beck reservoir, in North Yorkshire

The lack of water has already hit crop yields, causing considerable problems for farmers.

In the affected areas, Anglian Water and Cambridge Water have insisted there is no threat to the public water supply and that they have enough to get through the summer.

Consumers have been warned to use resources 'wisely'.

Ms Spelman said: 'Drought has hit parts of East Anglia, with other areas in England and Wales also giving grounds for concern.

'Water companies are confident that supplies are high enough so that widespread restrictions to the public are unlikely.

'We're doing all we can to reduce the impact on agriculture and wildlife, but everyone can play their part.

'Households know how to use less water and everyone can do their bit to use water more wisely, not only through the summer, but throughout the year.'

Mrs Spelman is set to hold a second drought summit to review the impacts of the continuing dry weather.

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) also indicated that provisional data showed England had experienced its driest three months on record between March and May.

Ahead of the publication of the latest monthly assessment of rainfall, river and water levels, experts also said that by late May soils in large parts of eastern and central England were at their driest on record.

But National Farmers' Union economist Clare Rowntree said the issues, affecting swathes of arable agricultural areas in the east of the country, would not have a large impact on food prices.

However, livestock farmers would be concerned by the potential increase in feed costs, while farmers in areas affected by water shortages would have to buy in more feed to make up for fodder crops which suffered from poor yields, she said.

Dry: Seathwaite in Cumbria is the wettest inhabited place in England with over 140 inches of rain in an average year but just last month the river in the valley had run bone dry after after one of the longest dry spells in decades

And the union's East Anglia senior policy adviser Paul Hammett said farmers had been working closely with Environment Agency officials for several months and were already taking voluntary measures to maximise water resources.

'The fact that farmers have been able to retain access to water for so long to irrigate vegetable and salad crops is because they are carefully managing its use and keeping in close contact with the Environment Agency,' he said.

'Moving to drought status highlights how important it is to make every drop of water count as this dry spell continues.

'We all need to work together- the public, farmers and industry - to get through this serious situation.'

Graham Wilson, Planning Manager at the Environment Agency said: 'What happens next is very dependent on the weather.

'Normal summer rain will reduce the rate at which rivers are falling and will help farmers and the environment especially, but if this is followed by a dry winter, there could be far more serious problems next year.

'Our job is to balance the needs of people, the environment, agriculture and industry so that there is enough water to go round.

'We all have a part to play in making the best efficient use of the water we have and even small changes can make a big difference to the overall picture.

'What would really help are several weeks of steady rain, even though this is never popular in the summer.'

According to CEH, the biggest impact of the continuing dry conditions is in rivers, with waterways across much of southern Britain close to or at their lowest levels for this time of year.

While above-average rainfall this summer could improve conditions, the CEH warned that the exceptionally dry ground conditions could see rivers remain low well into the autumn.

In parts of the Fens, some farmers and growers have volunteered to irrigate only at night to reduce evaporation, and co-operatives have been formed to share limited amounts of water available.

Environment Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster said there were 'plans in place' to ensure there is enough water for people, businesses and the environment.



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