England continues to run dry

The ongoing drought across England continues to expand. Half the country is now affected.

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    The half full Bewl reservoir in Kent in the Southeast of England. Half of England is now officially in drought [AFP]

    Talk to many people about the weather in England and often the pre-conception is that it usually rains. Nothing could be further from the truth at the moment as the worst drought in 30 years spreads across the country.

    On Monday, the Environment Agency declared that another 17 counties were short of water. This means that half of the country is now officially in drought. This situation could well remain with us until the end of the year.

    Despite rain across the country last week (I was in East Anglia for Easter and we had continuous rain there for over 36 hours at one stage), two dry winters have left rivers and reservoirs depleted.

    Winter normally tops up the water supply, but this winter has seen less than 60% of the average rainfall expected. A longer term drought which could easily extend beyond Christmas now seems increasingly likely.

    A hose pipe ban has been introduced across East Anglia and the Southeast, affecting around 20 million people. Now the drought affected area also includes parts of Yorkshire, the Midlands and the southwest of England.

    Public water supplies are unlikely to be affected but there could be problems for wildlife, wetlands, farmers' crops and maybe even the Olympics.

    Measures are already being taken to keep the gardens in the Olympic Park green. However, the hosepipe ban means that watering is now being done from cans using "grey water" to irrigate the million square metres of meadows and woods at the East London Site.

    The Olympic Stadium and Greenwich Park, which will host the horse riding events will be exempt from the hosepipe ban but the gardens around the main events could well be badly affected.

    Soil moisture levels in parts of the Southeast of England are now lower than the spring of 1976 when most gardens and parks went brown, if not straw coloured, during the long hot summer.

    The Environment Agency have made it clear that the Olympics will have to work around the drought like everyone else. So it's not just the athletes that have their work cut out then, but we can rest assured that the organisers will do their best to make sure that London 2012 will be the best Olympics ever.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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