If you’ve left your house even once over the last few weeks, you will have noticed that the trees are looking pretty sad and the grass is looking a little crunchy. Not a speck of green in sight. That’s not normal, by the way – that’s the sign of a drought. And it’s not looking good for most of the UK.
In July this year, the mercury hit 40C, which broke the record for the hottest temperatures ever seen. Sure, it was fun tanning as if we were in Greece, but the month was also the driest we have on record since 1911 – not an inch of rain in sight. So a drought has been looking pretty inevitable for a while now.
Today (August 12), the UK’s National Drought Group has declared a drought across parts of the South West, southern and central England, and the east of England. But though it’s a big scary word, what does a drought being declared mean? Let’s take a look.
What is a drought?
You guessed it – a drought essentially means there’s not enough water, and measures need to be brought in to conserve it.
It’s ultimately up to the UK’s Environment Agency to decide, and the EA chairs the National Drought Group, which includes representatives from Defra and various water companies.
What are the drought restrictions in the UK?
The first thing is something you will have heard a lot about over the last month or so – hosepipes. Practically a celebrity of late. Essentially, the EA agrees with water companies to ban personal hosepipe use – washing your car, watering your garden, filling up a paddling pool, terrorising your neighbours, that sort of thing.
Water companies can also apply for drought permits, which essentially allow them them to pump water from one river or reservoir into another if it’s suffering particularly badly.
Where are hosepipes banned in the UK?
The first regions to take the plunge were Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, where a hosepipe ban came into effect on August 5. Yorkshire Water has declared it will bring in a ban from August 26, and Thames Water is expected to follow suit.
How long will the drought go on for?
Well, firstly, things could get worse. If it gets really bad, the government might declare an ‘extreme drought’. This means limits on commercial water use (not just personal), rations on water supplies to homes and a ban on visiting areas that are deemed a fire risk.
As for how long it will go on for, the general consensus is that it will continue until October this year. But even then it’s not all happy days – this drought may have caused irreversible damage to some rivers and lakes.