England and Wales have seen the driest start of the year since 1976 and it has raised concerns that the UK could be heading for a drought, according to water expert Prof. Kevin Hiscock.

Prof. Hiscock from the University of East Anglia, an expert in hydrology and water resources at the School of Environmental Sciences, said:

“The western part of the British Isles is the wettest part, but the population and water supply demand are lower here than in the drier, eastern and south-eastern parts of the country with the densest population and highest water demand.

“Balancing the available water resources against the water demand is met by cross-regional transfers of water as well as through regional, conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater resources.

“In very dry years, these engineering approaches are tested, especially if we experience consecutive dry winter rainfall periods when recharge to our reservoirs and groundwater is much less than normal.”

Drought plans

Prof. Hiscock said that water companies plan for future water demand and aim to create “so-called headroom” in regional water resources to cope with future demand from house building but also to account for climate change and the need to protect water-dependent environments.

“Continued investment in reducing mains water leakage and longer-term planning to increase reservoir capacity are ongoing,” he added.

“Water companies also have a role in changing consumer behaviour to control water demand, for example through campaigns to install water meters in un-metered areas.

“Changes in land use as part of a nature-based solutions approach, can help with both controlling flooding and enhancing water resources.

Prof Hiscock said that the public can all make a difference by using water wisely during a drought, for example restricting our use of hosepipes for watering the garden or washing the car.

“In the longer term, then harvesting rainwater for outdoor use, installing water-efficient domestic appliances and, if not already installed, getting a water meter, all help to manage our individual water demand.”