British summer
With a heatwave recently circling across southern Europe, there is a possibility that Britain will become one of the next locations to experience it. Henry Nicholls/Reuters

With a heatwave currently circling across the globe in places such as southern Europe, severe droughts and dry weather have occurred and there is anticipation the hot conditions could reach Britain fairly soon.

This has caused the government to act, with the Environment Agency emphasising it will keep preparing for any possibilities with regard to weather conditions across the following months.

To deal with a potential British drought this summer, the National Drought Group had a meeting earlier this week to plan the most effective strategies to manage dry conditions and crucially, handle water resources. The National Drought Group, chaired by Executive Director for the Environment Agency, John Leyland, includes senior staff from the Environment Agency, government staff, water organisations plus farming and environmental groups.

Another point brought up at the meeting was that previous weather patterns should no longer be viewed as a guideline for any future planning of weather conditions, whilst any period forecasted for rain should be viewed as an ideal moment to save on water.

At the same time, Waterwise has been putting in strong efforts to educate people on water usage and consumption with its 'Dry July' campaign taking place from the 17th to the 28th of July. The aim is to help people preserve water better in hot conditions and try to work towards a future where water consumption is environmentally sustainable.

Chief Executive of Waterwise, Nicci Russell, spoke on what Waterwise is working towards. She clarified: "We're helping everyone to take small and practical actions that will have a massive impact in reducing water consumption – if we all make small changes to how we use water, we can make a huge difference."

After record-breaking hot weather in June, July has seen a drop in the hot and dry weather and many places have endured wet conditions. However, the Environment Agency still plans to prepare for any potential heatwaves despite temperatures dropping so far in July by keeping updated with the environment and ensuring the risks of dry conditions are understood.

The Environment Agency has been active in its aim to prepare for a British drought as it has encouraged farmers to make sure that they are aware of their water requirements. Also, the agency is cooperating with South West Water so that any possible new sources of water can be identified and opened up.

Regarding areas that have been affected of late, that includes Cumbria, Lancashire and the West Midlands, which endured dry weather conditions during June from river flows receding and reservoirs declining. Cumbria and Lancashire have been able to mount a recovery as there has been recent coverage of rain in North West England.

Recent rainfall has led to river flows being restored throughout the nation whilst the water environment temperatures have now been lowered, benefiting and protecting wildlife. Although, this recovery could be wiped out were a Britain drought to arrive in the immediate future.

Last summer's drought has caused water supply reservoirs to still be in recovery in the areas of Devon and Cornwall. This led to hosepipe bans being enforced there in order to manage the demand for the reservoirs.

There are still hosepipe bans in Sussex and Kent due to there simply being a greater need for more water during the summer season. The hosepipe bans can allow the treated water storage reservoirs to be refilled at the right time and as quickly as possible.

National Drought Group Chair and Environment Agency Director, John Leyland, spoke on the current extreme weather situation. He stated: "Our climate is changing – this year we've seen more record-breaking temperatures in the UK, historically wet months followed by historically dry months, and an extreme heatwave sweeping through southern Europe."

Leyland also touched on how the government will approach the matter, saying: "The Environment Agency will continue to work collaboratively across the water sector to manage drought risk, including ensuring water companies implement their drought plans, managing abstraction licenses and helping farmers to manage resources."

The government has made a strong commitment to ensuring there is cleaner water and greater water resources available, setting that out through the 'Plan for Water' earlier this April. Part of the strategy includes water companies investing £2.2 billion in infrastructure to help bolster the level of water resilience as well as fight off pollution.

Further on-farm reservoirs and better irrigation tools for farmers will be funded for through a second round of Water Management Grants worth £10 million. Also, a National Policy Statement was released in April focusing on the devolvement of important water resources infrastructure, which would allow water transfer schemes and reservoirs to be built within a much quicker duration.

Another aspect of the 'Plan for Water' includes the Regulators Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development programme paving the way for funding worth £469 million to be utilised for building large-scale water infrastructures.

Water Minister, Rebecca Pow, mentioned everyone has a role to play in helping with water supplies but especially water companies. She explained: "Whilst we all have an important role to play in preserving water resources, water companies must also step up their efforts, including by reducing leakage and encouraging water efficiency."