Climate change: Drought 'very likely' for south of England and Wales after driest eight month period since 1976

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Water chiefs are preparing for drought as the Met Office confirmed England's driest eight month period since 1976.

Officials at the Environment Agency are transferring water to low running rivers, rescuing fish and reoxygenating water, while water companies are implementing the early stages of their drought plans.

Earlier the EA chaired the National Drought Group with farmers, water companies and land users, planning ways to cope with conditions.

The group has urged people to "use water wisely" including by swapping baths for showers, saving water used to rinse vegetables and keeping cold water in the fridge to avoid running the tap.

"As we continue to see extremely high demand, we are urging everyone to carefully consider the amount they are using given the unprecedented conditions," said Stuart Colville, Water UK policy director.

It comes as the Royal Meteorological Society told Sky News drought was now "very likely" for the majority of the south of England and Wales.

"Based on the forecast... it really feels like we've got some trouble ahead with the lack of rainfall," chief executive Liz Bentley told Sky News.

November 2021 to June 2022 was the driest in England since the same period in 1975-76, the Met Office confirmed today, and last week's record-breaking mega heatwave exacerbated the already parched earth.

The dry weather has left most of England, apart from the North West, in "prolonged dry weather" status, the first of four drought categories.

Whether areas fall into the second "drought" stage hinges on when the rain returns, and whether it adds up to more or less than usual. The last drought periods were in 2018/2019 and 2011-12.

Read more:
Where does our water come from, where do we use it most and what happens during a drought?

"Where the the lack of rainfall has been most prevalent over recent months in the southern half of the UK, is where we're not likely to see much rainfall in the coming days," Ms Bentley said.

Anywhere south of the Welsh coastal village of Aberporth in the west, to The Wash in East Anglia, is "really struggling with persistent months where we've had below average rainfall," she said, with the problem growing more acute the further towards the South East.

The UK is expected to get warmer as the climate changes. In the next few decades drought is not expected to become more frequent or severe, but in the second half of the century it will become more severe, intense and frequent, according to climate projections.

The North West tends to be wetter because it is on the front end of the prevailing weather system that arrives from the Atlantic.

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