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England faces drought in August if the hot and dry weather continues, with officials set to meet to discuss how to cope with the conditions.
The country is not in widespread drought but most of England except for the North West has moved into a state of “prolonged dry weather”, the step before drought is declared, raising the spectre of restrictions such as hosepipe bans.
Officials from the Environment Department (Defra) and agencies including the Environment Agency are meeting with water companies and other groups including the National Farmers’ Union and the Country Land and Business Association on Tuesday to discuss how to protect water supplies.
Much of the country already has low river flows, affecting the quality and quantity of water, with impacts on farmers and other water users, as well as wildlife.
Low groundwater levels, dry soils and low reservoirs have also been seen following months of below average rainfall, and last week’s record-breaking heatwave put extra pressure on water resources.
In Yorkshire, the Environment Agency has applied for a drought order for the Holme Styes reservoir in Holmfirth after months of low rainfall, to protect wildlife.
Southern Water has applied for a drought permit for the River Test in Southampton, Hampshire, amid falling water levels, which could see it bring in hosepipe bans – now known as “temporary use bans”.
There are currently no restrictions such as hosepipe bans in place in England, but water companies are already urging people to save water in the face of the hot, dry weather, and localised bans are possible.
For farmers, August and September will be critical, and there is an increasing risk of restriction in irrigation in localised areas.
The last time drought was declared was in 2018.
Continued dry weather, similar to that seen in the last few months, could see another drought declared.
Forecasts are relatively uncertain after the settled weather this week, but Met Office forecaster Craig Snell said the trend appeared to be for drier weather in the South and wetter conditions in the North.
“The trend is the South will see the balance of the drier weather and the North will see the balance of the wetter weather, which is kind of what you would expect at this time of year.
“Even as you go to the middle part of August, on balance more persistent spells of rain will be across the North West, with the South seeing any rainfall in the form of showers or thunderstorms.”