Reports from across the East of England suggest that growers are already using much more water than normal for the time of year, while the prospects for a very dry summer increase.
Below average rainfall means that the Environment Agency (EA) has already declared irrigation prospects ‘moderate to poor’ in the East of England (Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex) which is largely reliant upon chalk aquifers for its water supplies. Many other areas of the UK are also classified as ‘moderate’, with much of England in a weaker position in terms of water availability than last year.
NFU national water specialist Paul Hammett has said restrictions on groundwater abstraction are currently unlikely in East Anglia, but added, “We are definitely not panicking, but it is an early irrigation season and we are bracing ourselves for another challenging year.” Many reservoirs are full, but for those that are not, time is running out.
Melvyn Kay, of the UK Irrigation Association, says some areas had received above-average rainfall, but others had received much less: “It’s worrying – some parts of the country have not had much rain at all so there will be limits on how much water people can abstract.”
AHDB Water Resources Scientist, Nicola Dunn stressed, “With time to prepare, we’d encourage farmers and growers to develop contingency plans and consider options, which could make the difference between a profit or loss situation this summer. Throughout winter and spring, the EA has issued certain areas with ‘hands off flow’ notices, meaning farmers and growers must stop abstracting water to top up storage facilities. This means later in the year, savvy techniques will be needed to help businesses get more from the water they have in the worst affected areas.”
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