Prospects for irrigation across England this summer have deteriorated because of dry weather in March and April, says the Environment Agency.
Since February, which was wet, rainfall was below average for March and just 50% of the long-term average in April.
No region is now classified as having ‘good’ prospects and only five are considered ‘good to moderate’, where some controls on surface water abstraction are possible by midsummer if the weather is hot and dry.
NFU water resources national specialist Kelly Hewson-Fisher said by the end of April ground on the east coast was significantly drier than normal for the time of year and irrigation had started earlier than normal on potatoes, onions and carrots.
In the east of East Anglia, limited operation of river support schemes is expected but widespread implementation of Section 57 spray irrigation restrictions is not. In the west of the region, local water management actions using existing licence conditions are likely to be required in Fenland catchments during the irrigation season.
The Environment Agency said it had started emailing water abstraction e-alerts to some abstractors in April to help them manage their ‘hands-off conditions’ and make better use of water when it is available. ‘They are an important step in helping abstractors to adapt to river and ground water levels as the climate changes,’ it said.