Help I’m in a drought area - What does it mean? | CIPHE


In Environment, Sustainability, Water

Parts of England and Wales are still officially in drought, for the first time since 1976. While we have had some rain, it’s not yet been enough to replace water reserves, and so the drought could continue into next year. Our latest blog takes you through the key things you need to know about drought, and what it means for your home or business.

Let’s make this clear, droughts are bad news. Not only to they lead to water shortages, but side-effects can include wildfires, crop failure and even water pollution. It’s therefore really important we all do what we can to stop water waste and follow any rules imposed.

The decision to declare the drought was made by the National Drought Group (NDG). Eleven of 14 areas designated by the Environment Agency in England have moved from “prolonged dry weather” status to “drought.” Areas include Devon and Cornwall, Solent and South Downs, Kent and South London, Herts and North London, East Anglia, Thames, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, East Midlands, Wessex, West Midlands and Yorkshire. However, there is no England, or UK-wide, trigger of measures being put into place. Instead, Water Companies in the drought-hit areas decide how to manage the situation.

In Wales, a large part of South West Wales has moved into drought status and in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Water has applied for Drought Order measures to help protect water supplies. Meanwhile the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), warned that water shortages could become both serious and increase in frequency due to climate change.

When an area is in drought, it means that the local Water Company is given additional powers to manage their water supplies. Water Companies can activate their ‘drought plan,’ which sets out restrictions on customers such as hosepipe bans. The Water Companies in England and Wales can also apply for drought permits from the Environment Agency, or drought orders from the Secretary of State of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to take water from other sources and manage water more flexibly.

The Environment Agency has said that essential supplies are safe, but has asked those living in drought areas to use water wisely and be mindful of the pressures on water resources.

For residents, there can be a range of impacts including:

  • Hosepipe bans
  • Reduced water pressure
  • Access to water limited to standpipes or mobile water tanks
  • And authorities may restrict access to national nature reserves due to wildfire risk.

For businesses, impacts can include:

  • Restrictions placed on commercial businesses that use water for non-essential services such as car washing
  • Farmers may have restrictions on water use for spray irrigation
  • Manufacturers may face restrictions on water use for industrial manufacturing and food processing.

Households and businesses are advised to consult their Water Company website, or contact them direct for full information on the rules in your area. If you are signed up for email communications with your Water Company, check your inbox for advice. Look at your water supply bill if you are not sure who to contact, or if you are in England and Wales you can find your local water supplier at Water UK.

We can all do our bit to reduce water waste. Our top tips for the home and garden will show you what to do. Reduce your water waste now.