Parts of region 'officially in drought'

WATER companies in East Anglia have been warned they could need to introduce hosepipe bans as parts of the region are officially in “drought”.It comes as Suffolk and Essex are experiencing the driest year since 1996 and 15 of the last 18 months have seen below average rainfall.

WATER companies in East Anglia have been warned they could need to introduce hosepipe bans as parts of the region are officially in “drought”.

It comes as Suffolk and Essex are experiencing the driest year since 1996 and 15 of the last 18 months have seen below average rainfall.

As a result, the Environment Agency has now moved the status for Essex and south Suffolk from “potential drought” to “drought”, which means that a shortage of water is predicted for the summer.

It could mean farmers will have to reduce or even be banned from spray irrigation while low river flows could lead to problems for fish and other wildlife.


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And the Environment Agency has now advised water companies in the area, including Anglian Water and Essex and Suffolk Water, that hosepipe bans could be required.

Jonathan Thompson, from the agency, said: “The situation in Essex and Suffolk is not as serious as in the south east of the country at the moment, but we are still likely to run short of water this year and could be in a very serious situation next year if the dry weather continues.”

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The dry conditions have prompted Suffolk's fire chiefs to warn of the dangers of thatched roof fires after the number in the county doubled in the last two years, from nine to 20.

In February, Essex had 70% of its average 44.4mm monthly rainfall and Suffolk had 74% of its average 44.2mm.

Although there has been a slight increase in river flows after the rainfall in mid-February and early March, the underlying levels are still low for the time of year.

And the Environment Agency said the region needs at least six weeks above average rainfall to achieve more “normal” conditions.

Water watchdog, the Consumer Council for Water Eastern, is now urging people to use water carefully and called on water companies to enhance their control of leaks to minimise waste.

Chairman Catherine Harvey said: “Using water wisely now may avoid the need for further restrictions like hosepipe bans later.”

But a spokesman for Anglian Water said: “We could not really justify seeking permission to impose restrictions when levels at Alton Water in Ipswich are currently 92% full.

“We remain confident but cautious. This is our first dry winter - we had 65% of the expected winter rainfall - but in the south it is their second consecutive dry winter.

“We are not complacent though. We are used to operating in a dry region. It is our worst year since 1996 but we have had no restrictions since 1991. We weathered that storm in 1996 and we are optimistic we can do the same again.”

There are also no restrictions planned at Essex and Suffolk Water, with its two main reservoirs at Hanningfield, near Chelmsford, and Abberton, near Colchester, full and its leakage rate the UK's lowest.

About half of the company's supply in the Suffolk area comes from underground sources but it said levels are currently reasonable and are being monitored very carefully.

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