Bleak summer prospect for water abstractions

31 January 1997

Bleak summer prospect for water abstractions

FARMERS in the east who rely on spray irrigation face another year of abstraction restrictions, according to the Environment Agency.

As a result of last years experiences and feedback from farmers, the agency has established a new procedure to introduce such restrictions.

Apart from November, eastern England experienced extremely dry weather during 1996, receiving just 74% of normal rainfall. River flows and groundwater levels are now below average.

"Many of Anglias rivers are dependent on spring flow from groundwater," says Graham Wilson, regional water sources manager. "So low groundwater levels will result in low river flows next summer. Restrictions on spray irrigation may be necessary to protect the environment, if we have a repeat of last years dry summer."

Borehole supplies which rely on groundwater may also be restricted, he adds.

The Environment Agency has replaced its amber and red alert warning system with a new three-stage process.

The first step describes prospects for summer irrigation in the Anglian region (as above). Further forecasts will be issued to abstractors in high risk areas.

Secondly, the agency will issue a request for voluntary savings where restrictions are likely. Where possible, two weeks notice will be given.

Finally, where water levels, quality or flows are becoming critical, formal restrictions will be phased in. Total bans will only be used as a last resort. Those ignoring them will be liable to prosecution and a fine.

Further details, and advice on how to increase irrigation efficiency, are included in Prospects for Spray Irrigation; Make Every Drop Count, available on 01733-371811.n

Dry as a bone.. this Environment Agency map shows just how dry East Anglia is, with less than half the usual rainfall in some areas during 1996.

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