After Storm Dennis passes, the East Anglian drought is finally over!
- Credit: ANDY JEFF
East Anglia is no longer in a drought after months of above average rain – but environment officials would still like to see more water added to groundwater reserves.
Until this year, the region had had three exceptionally dry winters on the trot. It is the period between October and April that normally sees water levels topped up in reservoirs, rivers and - very importantly - underground aquifers.
But below-average rainfall for three winters in a row had reduced reserves - and the dry summer of 2018 had put increased pressure on water levels as farmers needed to irrigate crops that would normally be watered naturally.
The area was officially declared to be in drought at the end of last summer and there were fears of widespread restrictions this year if there was not a considerable amount of rain.
Now it looks as if the prayers of the water companies and the Environment Agency have been answered - and the drought officially came to an end at the end of January.
Heavy rain so far in February may have spoiled weekends for people looking to have fun - but that has ensured that the average rainfall for the month has already fallen and more is predicted over the next weeks.
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said that about 150% of normal rainfall had come down in December and 100% of average in January. She said: "The East Anglia region is no longer affected by drought conditions.
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"Since September, rainfall has continued to be above average. All river levels are normal or above, with some exceptionally high, while groundwater is mostly at normal levels or above and the aquifers are recharging.
"With still two months left of abstraction into agricultural irrigation reservoirs, many farmers are reporting their reservoirs virtually full compared to this time last year when many were struggling to fill. The water company reservoirs at Hanningfield, Abberton and Alton Water are at healthy levels.
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"However we cannot afford to be complacent. More needs to be done to protect the water that we have to ensure that we have clean and plentiful water for generations to come."
She said the Agency would still like to see more rain to bring underground supplies up further - if there was a long, hot, dry summer followed by a dry winter the problem could return - but the indications were that the water level recovery would continue. And reports from farmers suggested their reservoirs had been filled naturally during the winter.
Adam Dury from Norwich-based Weatherquest said weather stations across Suffolk had reported about 35mm of rain in February so far. The average for the area is 40mm and there is still almost half the month left . . . with some further rain in the forecast.
He said: "There is an indication of some more rain on Thursday and the picture for next week looks a bit unsettled as well."
A spokeswoman for Anglian Water said supplies were "in a good place." She said: "After five months of above average rainfall all the groundwater has recovered to where it should be except for a couple of areas - and if the forecasts are correct they should be fully restored by the end of March."