As you’ve probably heard, the UK is amidst a period of drought after the unusually dry weather that we’ve experienced. In July, we had only 35% of the rainfall that we normally see. Drought was declared in many parts of England this month and our spell of dry, hot weather is predicted to continue. Many parts of the UK have seen below average rainfall levels for several weeks, with reservoirs drying up and water companies left with no choice but to put restrictions on use.
Since drought effects everything from water levels in rivers to the availability of drinking water, you might be worried about what this drought means for you and wondering if there’s anything you can do to help. Here’s what you need to know about the UK drought in 2022 . . .
Why is there a drought?
A drought occurs when we experience unusually low levels of rainfall or snow, affecting everything from water levels in rivers and reservoirs to moisture in the soil. Droughts can be naturally occurring events, but scientists agree that human-driven climate change is drastically increasing the probability of drought events.
This is because increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are warming the Earth and making lengthy spells of hot, dry weather more common in many places. England has been in a ‘prolonged dry weather period’ for a while due to the abnormally dry conditions this spring and summer. This is the last step before drought is officially declared. Some parts of the UK have already now officially been declared as in drought.
What will the drought effect?
Drought can have a negative effect on many elements for the environment, its humans and animals. Firstly, drought reduces the availability of water supply for drinking as well as other activities like washing clothes and showering. Equally worrying is that drought decreases the availability of water for farmers, this increases the risk of crop failure and disruption to our available food supply. A reduced amount of water in lakes and rivers can increase levels of pollution, while higher water temperatures reduce oxygen levels and negatively affects aquatic life. Wildlife is also affected by a lack of available water with some animals becoming dehydrated as a result.
What can be done to help the drought?
The way that water is managed and used can have an impact on an area’s ability to cope with drought. Water companies in England have been heavily criticised for neglecting to meet their targets on reducing leakage in the infrastructure. Water companies are leaking up to a quarter of their supply a day, amounting to around 2.4 billion litres of water, according to analysis carried out by the Times. Thames Water has attracted controversy as it was revealed that a £250m desalination plant launched 12 years ago to increase drinking water supplies has been postponed. It’s clear that if these problems were corrected by the water companies, it would go a long way to ensuring that the UK didn’t reach drought conditions again. But re-enforcing the infrastructure of the entire UK water system is a large and expensive job and it might well be that the water companies will need support from the UK government in order to achieve this. And even then, it won’t happen overnight.
But all is not lost. Because there’s a lot that we can do as individuals to help save water and if we come together collectively, we can make a big difference. If you’d like to know how you as an individual can help, then please read our recent article on how to save water and share our tips with your friends and family!