Staffordshire declared drought zone as rainfall dries up
STAFFORDSHIRE has been declared an official ‘drought zone’ as unusually dry weather conditions heap pressure on Britain’s water supplies.
The Environment Agency yesterday named Staffordshire among 17 English counties in drought, and said water shortages could last until Christmas or beyond.
Abnormally dry weather over the past few months has left water levels along rivers and streams exceptionally low.
Severn Trent last night stressed that public water supplies are unlikely to be affected, but reiterated calls for people to usewater wisely.
The company said there were no concerns about water levels at Tittesworth Reservoir which is 94.6 per cent full.
The reservoir, which holds 6,440,000 cubic litres of water, has actually risen by around four per cent in the last week, and is 11 per cent higher than this time last year, when levels dropped to 83.9 per cent.
However, the drought zone status, which will remain indefinitely, means there is likely to be negative effects on the environment, with farmers expected to suffer poor crops.
There are also serious concerns about wildlife.
Sarah-Jayne O’Kane, an expert in droughts and weather cycles at Severn Trent, said: “What the Environment Agency has indicated is that the Staffordshire region is being affected by environmental drought.
“This is different to what is happening in parts of the south, where hosepipe bans have been enforced.
“It shouldn’t have any affect on domestic water supplies, but river levels are lower, and this means river temperatures are higher. There are concerns about how this might affect fish and wading birds.”
Mrs O’Kane added that Severn Trent is “confident” there will be no hosepipe bans in the region this year, and the drought will not affect plans to sell spare water to Anglian Water, which has imposed a hosepipe ban.
Robert Scragg, pictured left, a 42-year-old sheep and cattle farmer based near Cheadle, said: “If this went on until say, September, it would be a major problem.
“We need healthy rainfall for the grass for grazing animals. This is also used to make hay and silage, which is the winter feed. If the supply of hay and silage does down, the prices are ramped up.
“This means other farmers have to pay more for the feed, and this cost can be passed on to the supermarket price.”
Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: “While we’ve had some welcome rain recently, the problem has not gone away, and we would urge everyone – right across the country – to use water wisely now, which will help to prevent more serious impacts next year.”
The agency had already declared drought zones in London, the South East, East Anglia and parts of Yorkshire.
This year’s exceptionally dry conditions are the result of a lack of rainfall over the past two winters. Experts are now hoping for a rainy winter to help ‘recharge’ supplies.
The other drought zones are in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and parts of Hampshire, and Wiltshire.
United Utilities said there were no concerns in South Cheshire.
The Environment Agency’s official criteria for what constitutes a drought is complex, and based on several factors, including groundwater levels and effects on industry.
For March and April, anything below 25mm of rain per month is a cause for concern.
Last month saw 23.1mm of rain, and the previous March saw just 11.9mm.
This compares to 49.9mm in 2010 and 32.3mm in 2009.