Hosepipe ban fears for UK as climate chiefs warn of water shortages this summer

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Farmers warned they may struggle to grow enough vegetables leaving supermarkets with less amounts of carrots, parsnips and lettuce

Hosepipe bans could once again be in place this summer as it is likely the UK will face water shortages, national advisers have warned.

The government’s climate aides fear there could be an “acute risk of water shortages” if ongoing dry weather persists into May, which it is forecast to.

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The group told Sky News that a hosepipe ban was possible in some areas. The south east and east of England are the areas most at risk and it would only take a few more months of less than expected rain.

It comes as farmers warn that some crops like carrots and lettuces could run short too.

‘There is a risk’

Because of climate change the UK is getting drier and drier which is adding to the water shortage problem, despite there being overall wetter winters.

Hotter and drier summers are leaving the land and bodies of water less well equipped to retain water when it does fall leading to shortages.

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(Image by NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock) (Image by NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock)
(Image by NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock) | NationalWorld/Kim Mogg/Adobe Stock

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), said: "If we continue over the next two or three months to have less rain than we might hope for, then there is a risk that in the summer we could see some (water) shortages. Alongside this, there is also the risk of some water companies imposing hosepipe bans.”

This February was the driest in 30 years in England. The country is still recovering from last year’s record-breaking dry weather and droughts. East Anglia and Devon, and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, are still in “drought” status - with most “recovering”.

Water officials have cautioned the country is just one hot and dry spell away from being thrown back into another drought.

Speaking to Sky News, Richard Millar, head of adaptation at the Climate Change Committee, said: "Following this dry winter, if this summer is again dry (which is expected more often due to climate change) then risks of water shortages could be even more acute.”

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The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) told Sky that if the next three months remain dry they might struggle to grow enough vegetables leaving supermarkets with less amounts of carrots, parsnips, lettuce and some cabbages.

With some crops like carrots still recovering from last year and the warning from farmers that they may struggle to grow other veg means the UK will be forced to import more.

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw added: “If we end up with a dry spring and early summer, then the challenges are really going to be potentially very, very real.”

He called for a simplified planning system to allow farmers to build reservoirs on their land more easily.

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The plans to stop another drought

The NIC warned the UK is going to have to find an extra four billion litres of water a day by 2050, and government investment must rise to £700 million a year to protect against drought. It said part of the solution is plugging the leaks in the water network.

NIC chair Sir John said: “Water companies need to cut back the leakage from their existing pipe systems… And to be fair to them, they are investing, they are getting on with that.”

Water companies are planning for 12 new reservoirs by 2050 - but all are subject to a lengthy and complicated planning process.

Previous plans for a reservoir in Oxfordshire were blocked by both the government and Environment Agency.

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Industry body Water UK said companies have £14 billion plans for “seven new reservoirs, the fist of which is already starting construction, as well as cross-country water transfers.” This all has to be paid for and experts warn that it could land on householders through their bills.

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