The National Drought Group, made up of senior decision makers from the Environment Agency, government, water companies and key representative groups, were joined by Water Minister Steve Double, who is also the MP for St Austell and Newquay. They met today to discuss the response to the driest summer in 50 years and the continued action needed.
A spokesperson said: ‘The group discussed the current outlook and the associated risks and impacts and agreed to further collaborative work across sectors to balance water needs and conserve water.
‘At the meeting, the Environment Agency said that the drought trigger threshold had been met to move parts of the South West, parts of Southern and Central England, and the East of England into Drought.
‘The triggers used to confirm today’s move to Drought status for these areas include the hydrological position (including rainfall, river flows, groundwater levels, reservoir levels, and the dryness of soils), as well as the impacts these conditions have on public water supply, abstractors (including farmers) and the environment.
‘This is determined by the Environment Agency at a local level, rather than nationally.’
Steve Marks, the Environment Agency’s drought lead for Devon and Cornwall, said: ‘With continuing exceptionally dry and hot weather, river levels across Devon and Cornwall are exceptionally low – many showing the lowest flows on record – this places incredible strain on local wildlife and this is why Devon and Cornwall are moving to drought status.
‘We are prioritising our local operations to minimise impacts on the environment.’
Action being taken across the two counties includes monitoring the effects of the dry weather on rivers, ensuring people and companies who have water abstraction licences only operate within the terms of their licence and taking legal action against those who fail to comply or anyone who abstracts water without a licence, and responding to environmental emergencies, such as rescuing stranded fish.
Today, National Drought Group members agreed to:
- Recognise the new risks and impacts associated with the current outlook.
- Ensure water companies are following their Drought plans.
- Continue working collaboratively across sectors to manage current impacts – working together to balance water needs and conserve water.