On Thursday, a housepipe ban will be introduced to large parts of southern and eastern England.   Eight water companies have said they will impose water restrictions after two very dry winters have left reservoirs, aquifers and rivers below normal levels.  Across East Anglia - where I live - the last six months have been the driest since records began in 1921.

While many of us do not use (or even have) a hosepipe, the introduction of a hosepipe ban is a warning to all of us to be responsible water consumers.  And even though (with impeccable timing) the weather looks like it has turned and we'll have a wet and cold Easter, as reported by the Environment Agency here, a long wet spring and summer will not necessarily provide a lasting solution if followed by another dry autumn and winter.

The impact of the drought will not just be felt by gardeners and farmers.

I wrote in February here about the threat that the drought posed for wildlife.  At the time, site managers at our southern and eastern England wetland reserves were expressing concern about the forthcoming breeding season.   Since then reports are coming in of desperate times for many of our wetland reserves.

For example, our Nene Washes reserve near Peterborough is in danger after failing to flood - this would be bad news for the wetland wildlife especially for black-tailed godwit as the Nene is the most important breeding site for this species.  My colleague Phil Burston was quoted at the wekend as saying "our other worst-hit areas are in Kent such as Elmley marshes on the Isle of Sheppey and Northward Hill on the Hoo peninsula.  The lack of water is wiping out wading birds".

I have feeling that the interest and concern about the drought will only grow.  So, for the rest of this week, I shall dedicate this blog to what can be done about the drought.

I shall share what we are doing to try to manage water on our sites to support wetland wildlife, what we should all be doing in our homes to be responsible water consumers and finally I shall outline what we think government and water companies should be doing to provide long term solutions to water shortages.

And as ever, whether you are in a drought area of not, I'd be delighted to hear your views.

  • There is also a drought across France. I believe we (or the met Office is)  understanding more that this occurs due to the movement of the jet stream which I believe then positions great big highs in mid atlantic and "our" carribean lows head for Greenland instead of us.

    I will always remember the relief in kenya when the rain fell and so let the maize grow "rain, beautiful rain". Joy. Here, we live in a society utterly divorced from nature so the meaning of all this is largely divorced from people; hemmed in as they are largely on their "brownfield" sites, fed by supermarkets and water from the tap. It is most ironic that the " green" movement would have them stay in cities, thereby largely divorced, dependant on "viewing nature" from machines in which lies an inherent curse !

    I become more Hobbesian by the day.

  • Yes it is a very serious issue, and potentially a lot worst than the 1976 drought. It will take several years of reasonable rain before the effects of this disappear, assuming we get that rain. Maybe the wetland and wading birds in Scotland and especially north west Scotland (where they have been hogging all our rain!!) will do well this year to compensate, let's hope so.

    This very bad drought is, of course, not confined to England, I have recently had a few days in Spain watching wall creepers and cranes migrating and the drought there is equally serious if not more so. In most parts they have had only 20% of their expected rainfall.

    This abnormal weather, as far as I am aware, is affecting the whole of western Europe, mainly caused by persisted high pressure systems centred over the area. This in turn, I understand, although I am now weather man, is due to the jet stream moving and staying put unusally far north over Greenland and northern Scandinavian.

    The Government needs to appoint a minster for drought as in 1976, that solved the problem right away. As soon as he was appointed we started to get a long spell of heavy rain almost immediately!!       .