Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Water, water... nowhere

Cahal Milmo in the Independent: On the River Kennet in Berkshire conservationists are resorting to stunning fish using electric probes and rescuing them from the dwindling trickle of water. Farmers across East Anglia are considering ditching entire crops while at nature reserves springs have dried up, leaving creatures from water voles to marsh harriers struggling to find food.

It might sound like a picture from the height of a dry summer but this was the reality across a swathe of England in late winter yesterday after 18 months of cripplingly low rainfall which has left some groundwater and river levels lower already than they were during the drought of 1976.

Water companies, normally reluctant to admit the likelihood of shortages which have drawn criticism of their record on leakages, are warning of potential restrictions in the coming months. Thames Water, which supplies 14 million homes and businesses, said it is not a matter of if there will be a drought but "when and how bad".

Experts believe that anything short of a deluge of biblical proportions to replenish aquifers across an area stretching from Lincoln to Birmingham and down to Portsmouth will make hosepipe bans and irrigation restrictions inevitable. Up to 18 million homes and businesses could be affected by April.

Such doom-laden forecasts may seem ironic after recent Arctic conditions and the wettest winter in Scotland for a century. But the severity of the situation was underlined yesterday when the Government declared that South-east England is already in drought and warned of the need for action across the board – from utilities to householders – to save water....

The River Kennet near Avebury, shot by Rotatebot (I think), Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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