UK rivers on “red alert” as water companies face call for further hose bans | Drought

Most rivers in the UK are on “red alert”, according to the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH), as activists say “our rivers are dying” and call for an immediate ban. of hoses nationwide.

This summer, water companies came under sharp criticism for their apparent inability to plan for drought and deal with pipe leaks. Sarah Bentley, the managing director of Thames Water, received a bonus of £ 496,000 last year, which is almost double the performance-related payout of the previous year and a salary increase to £ 750,000 from £ 438,000 in 2020. -21, show the annual accounts.

Sources at Thames Water have ruled out that a ban on hoses will be announced this weekend despite the drought state of the rivers around southern England.

Most water companies have avoided banning excessive water use, such as watering gardens and washing cars with hoses, but river experts hope the UKCEH’s August forecast will spur them to action. The Rivers Trust accused the water companies of waiting until the last minute to implement the bans in order to avoid negative reactions from customers. So far only two, Southern Water and South East Water, have announced a ban on piping.

Last month was the driest July in England for over 100 years and some areas experienced the driest summer on record. According to the latest forecasts, rivers are set at the most severe drought alert level across the country, even in areas where rains have occurred in recent weeks. For many it is almost certain that the flow will be the lowest of this century.

Predictions show that major rivers, including the Avon and Waveney, flow slower than they did during the drought in 2011 and 2006, when piping bans were in place in many areas of the country. In Scotland, rivers, including the Tyne and Tweed, are expected to flow much slower than usual.

Next week, the government and UKCEH will produce a report based on these predictions that will analyze how bad the situation is in the UK, with rivers drying up.

Activists hope an urgent action plan will be put in place, with fears that rivers could suffer long-term effects from lack of water.

Last month, the Environment Agency’s national drought group, made up of groups of farmers, environmental experts and representatives of government agencies, met to discuss the response. They were supposed to meet in October, but the meeting was brought forward due to the drastic conditions. However, the government does not impose bans on the piping, leaving it to the water companies. Can give advice and solicited further action to be taken.

But the charities don’t think this is good enough. Josh Jones, Senior Technical Analyst at the Rivers Trust, said, “It just proves that we need to implement management. Without managing demand when supply is limited, we head for rivers and wildlife in rivers heading for a tough time. First, we need to slow down the flow of water in rivers and replenish soil moisture, and we need more wetlands that also store water. Water companies should put hose bans in place across the country and they should be proactive rather than retroactive, this problem has been going on for a long time. Although an average of 12 months is observed, rainfall is below average across the country. This problem was foreseeable ”.

A spokesperson for the Angling Trust said, “Let’s not sugar this, our rivers are dying. The situation is farcical, predictable, and is entirely the result of our abject inability to plan properly in this country. A new reservoir has not been built in the south of England since 1976, coincidentally in response to the last major drought, but millions more people have lived here and used more and more water since then. With the impacts of climate change being felt here and now, the government and water companies know it is coming. Yet they prioritized profits over the needs of our environment and wildlife ”.

The consequences for nature could be dire due to this lack of action, he added. He said: “We are seeing an increasing amount of reported fish kills, starved of oxygen and lack of water, and we have to deal with that in addition to the pollution that is being poured into our rivers. And the lack of water is killing people. our chalk streams, for which we have a global responsibility to protect.Many of them, from Pang in Berkshire to Ver in Hertfordshire, no longer flow along long stretches of their upper reaches, some of the most important wildlife habitats.

“Reducing demand and introducing bans on hoses is important. We are in a drought, it is a crisis, we must all do our part. But all of this is just a patch. What we are experiencing is the new normal. We need urgent action and a much faster response from the government, regulators and water companies. “

Thames Water told the Guardian that its teams have been working 24/7 to maintain water supply, but that if the drought continues, water-saving measures, including restrictions, may become necessary. The company has a drought legal plan and implemented the first phase of that plan in May, which was a media campaign with water-saving tips.

“The next step in the plan would be to introduce a temporary use ban which could include hoses. The timing will depend on the amount of water our customers use, which determines how quickly the reservoir storage decreases and the amount of flow in the rivers, which determines how much water we can take to fill them, “said Thames Water.

He added: “Clients can really help us with this long-term planning by using water wisely, only by using what they absolutely need.”

The Guardian turned to Defra for comment.

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