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When is a Drought Officially Declared?

Millions of homes in the UK have been affected by drought after one of the driest summers on record.

Read Time : 4 mins

Author : NED

Millions of homes in the UK have been affected by drought after one of the driest summers on record, with other areas in pre-drought stage. Here’s what this means and when a drought may be announced for the remaining areas.

What is a Drought?

A drought is a period of time when an area or region experiences less rainfall than normal, resulting in reduced soil moisture or groundwater, diminished stream flow, crop damage and an overall water shortage. Droughts can also lead to issues such as wildfires and water pollution.

Generally, when a drought has been announced, hosepipe bans are put in place in affected areas and residents are advised to use water conservatively.

When is a Drought Declared?

The Environment Agency (EA) decides whether to declare a drought after speaking with water companies, government officials and groups such as farmers’ representatives.

Rainfall, river flows, groundwater levels, reservoir levels and soil dryness are all considered prior to declaring a drought.

This year, there have been five consecutive months of below average rainfall and temperatures across all regions in England. Some river levels are the lowest ever recorded.

Which Areas are Currently in a Drought?

Why isn’t the North West in a Drought?

Although the North West has experienced a dry summer, it hasn’t had a state of ‘prolonged dry weather’ like the rest of the country.

According to the Met Office, rainfall in the North West was around 53% of the average, compared to the usual 70-80% in June and August.

This is significantly higher than the South East, where the average rainfall was only 23% of where it should be.

A United Utilities spokesperson said “We are not considering any restrictions on use, but whatever the weather, we always encourage people to use water wisely, which saves energy and money and is good for the environment.”

How to Save Water at Home

If you currently live in an area under a drought, or if you’re trying to be more conservative with your water usage, here are some easy ways to cut down on the amount of water you use.

1. Take shorter showers

On average a shower uses 10 litres a minute, so keeping showers as short as possible is always best.

2. Turn off taps when not in use

Make sure to only have the tap running when necessary. For example, don’t leave the tap running whilst brushing your teeth as a running tap uses up to nine litres of water a minute.

3. Fully load appliances

Only putting on full washing machine and dishwasher loads could save up to 4,000 litres per year.

4. Fix leaks

Leaking appliances or plumping can waste lots of water. Fixing a leaking toilet could save you up to 400 litres a day on average.

5. Take a shower instead of a bath

A five minute shower uses around 50 litres of water; that’s half the volume of a standard bath.

6. Use a watering can instead of a hosepipe or sprinkler

Garden sprinklers and hose pipes can use between 500 - 1,000 litres of water an hour when left running.

7. Fill a jug of water

Fill a jug of water and keep it in the fridge for when you want a cool drink to avoid running the tap for long periods of time waiting for it to get cold.

For more water and energy saving advice, head over to our handy gas, electricity and water blog.

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