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Drought concerns downplayed by Environment Agency despite dry April

Press Association logo Press Association 09/05/2017 By PA Reporters
The River Eden in Cumbria displaying low water levels (Owen Humphreys/PA) © Provided by The Press Association The River Eden in Cumbria displaying low water levels (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The Environment Agency has downplayed concerns of drought after one of the driest Aprils on record.

The agency said it was monitoring the situation following a period of “dry weather”, but stressed that the UK was not experiencing critically low supplies.

In total, 34.7mm of rainfall was recorded last month, which is just under half (48%) the expected amount for the month as a whole.

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: “Following a dry winter, some rivers, groundwaters and reservoirs are lower than normal for the time of year. 

“We always advise that everyone uses water wisely – especially during a period of dry weather – and to follow the advice of their water company should water-saving measures be required.

“The Environment Agency, water companies, businesses and farmers are working together to minimise any potential impacts to people and the environment should the dry weather continue.”

Met Office statistics show last month was the 10th driest April since records began in 1910. It follows the driest six-month period from October to March since 1995-1996.

The figures come amid concerns that low water supplies in parts of the UK could affect crops in the coming months.

The low water level at Bewl Water reservoir, near Lamberhurst in Kent © Provided by The Press Association The low water level at Bewl Water reservoir, near Lamberhurst in Kent

The National Farmers Union has warned that “exceptionally low rainfall during March and April has brought an early end to groundwater recharge”, with below-normal levels recorded across Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and the North Downs area in Kent.

“Recharge” refers to the six-month period between October and March when rainfall is expected to be at its highest for the year.

Just one water supplier, Affinity Water, based in the south-east of England, has issued advice to customers about conserving water ahead of the summer.

The low water level at Bewl Water reservoir, near Lamberhurst in Kent © Provided by The Press Association The low water level at Bewl Water reservoir, near Lamberhurst in Kent

England was particularly dry in April, with just 19mm falling in 30 days, or 32% of the annual average.

However, the dry spell is not expected to last, with some rain expected to fall later this week.

Met Office forecaster Emma Sharples said: “We have had dry weather so far this week, but it does look as though a change in wind direction (will arrive) in the latter part of the week and that does two things.

“It increases temperature both in day and night, but also it starts to bring some slightly moister air. It looks as if we’re going to see some showery outbreaks of rain spreading northwards across the country from late Thursday, but more likely on Friday and into the weekend.”

Ms Sharples said the rainfall would not be the “broad Atlantic system which is going to give the six hours of steady rain most people want and need”, but that it might give some light relief for drier areas.

The driest six-month recharge period since records began was October to March 1962-1963, when just 420mm of rain fell, compared with the 2016-2017 recording of 510mm for the same period.

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