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National Drought Group outlines action plan amid heatwave

The National Drought Group (NDG) has outlined its plans for the coming weeks amid the continued hot and dry weather.

The NDG, chaired by the Environment Agency’s chief executive, brings together government departments, water companies, environmental groups and others to coordinate action to maintain water supplies and manage the other risks associated with drought.

The group convened on Monday to assess the present situation – which has so far seen only United Utilities announce a hosepipe ban in England – and coordinate plans for the weeks ahead.

The NDG said participants in the meeting "agreed to step up their activity on all fronts" and that water companies were taking further action to sustain a reliable water supply to their customers, including:

  • Putting additional resources in place
  • Implementing their contingency drought plans as appropriate
  • Actively advising customers on water efficiency and offering free-water saving devices
  • Stepping up their efforts to find and fix leaks to protect supplies and help reduce the risk of further hosepipe bans
  • Taking a range of other steps to sustain supply, including water trading between companies and additional measures to keep farmers and other customers supplied with a particular focus on vulnerable customers

The Environment Agency said it is:

  • Actively monitoring the weather, water situation and the environment, analysing the prospects and sharing its analysis with others
  • Working with the water companies to ensure they are following their drought plans and implementing actions in a timely way
  • Working with businesses, farmers and others who abstract water under licence from the EA to manage down demand and protect the environment, using its regulatory powers as necessary
  • Stepping up engagement to encourage the public and others to cut down on non-essential water use
  • Operating water transfers such as the Shropshire Groundwater Scheme to help maintain river flows for water supply and the environment
  • Stepping up its incident response to ensure the environment is protected – responding to 50 per cent more hot weather incidents, including fish kills
  • Moving its operations to higher alert status and increasing staff resources to support its own work and those of partners in affected areas
  • Leading by example: EA fleet vehicles and office windows will not be cleaned to avoid unnecessary water usage

The NDG also outlined the efforts made by other partners:

  • The National Farmers Union (NFU) and farmers are working closely with the EA, internal drainage boards, water companies and Defra to manage the situation and sustain farming production, including through water trading and abstraction restrictions that are now in place in some catchments
  • The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has produced top tips for farmers on coping with drought and heat
  • The Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) is closing some navigations to save water, providing information to boat users on the situation and asking them to consider sharing locks where possible – as they always do in summer
  • The Angling Trust has distributed guidance to its members on fishery management during hot and dry weather
  • Other partners are taking action to preserve water supplies, sustain economic and leisure activity and protect as far as possible the environment, rivers, lakes and wildlife

The NDG added that it had agreed to step up coordination between its members to maintain a common assessment of the situation and ensure the closest possible cooperation to address the current challenges, and agreed to meet again on 29 August.

Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Policy & Regulation , Water resources
Tags: drought , government , water companies , water saving , hosepipe ban , water trading , Water Efficiency

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