Water companies must ‘prepare now’ for droughts as UK faces ‘extreme climate shocks’, EA warns

The Environment Agency has warned the UK faces “increasingly extreme climate shocks” that can “change everything in an instant”

Water companies need to be “prepared” for future droughts now to ensure there are enough resources this summer, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned.

The warning comes after the UK experienced its driest February for 30 years followed by the wettest March for 40 years.

The country is also still recovering from last year’s hot weather with parts of East Anglia, Devon and Cornwall remaining in drought status.

The EA is still monitoring the recovery of fish and invertebrates, but the regions are improving after above-average rainfall throughout April.

The National Drought Group (NDG), which is composed of the EA, the Met Office, the government, water companies, and farming and environmental groups, said in a meeting on Wednesday (24 May) that collaboration is needed to ensure there is enough water for people, agriculture, wildlife and the environment this summer.

Water firms must ‘prepare now’ for droughts amid supply fears. (Photo: Getty Images) Water firms must ‘prepare now’ for droughts amid supply fears. (Photo: Getty Images)
Water firms must ‘prepare now’ for droughts amid supply fears. (Photo: Getty Images)

EA chief executive and NDG chair John Curtin said this wet weather the UK has experienced this spring “continues to improve water availability” but “increasingly extreme climate shocks, such as last summer’s hot and dry spell, can change everything in an instant.”

He said the government, regulators, water companies and all water users “will continue to work together” and use the “the latest science and best practice to ensure our water resources are prepared for more extreme events in the future.”

As of 16 May reservoir capacity across England stood at 92% - compared with 49% at the end of September when they were at their lowest.

The NDG said almost all river flows are normal or higher for this time of year but more hot and dry spells could see drought conditions return to areas across the country.

Water minister Rebecca Pow said: “The government will continue to work collaboratively with the Environment Agency and industry, and through our Plan for Water, we are ensuring key water supply infrastructure such as reservoirs can be built more quickly.

“Water companies must better deliver for customers, step up their water resource planning efforts and take precautionary steps to ensure water resilience.”