Thames21 statement on drought announcement for South East England

Feb 20, 2012
Lack of rain for two winters running has reduced groundwater levels in South East England to below levels of the Summer of 1976 drought. Rivers  are under increasing pressure with very serious consequences for the environment and the wildlife that they support.

Thames21 works with local communities on the River Thames and tributaries and there is growing public concern over water levels.  The consequences of reduced volumes of water in our rivers can be severe for the plants and animals.  Reedbeds, for example along the tributaries provide essential habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, as well as improving the river by removing pollutants from the water, but are under threat from reducing water levels.  Wildlife habitat in riverbanks can be left high and dry and exposed. Reduced water levels have a direct impact on the quality of the water.  For example, pollution such as sewage overflows have less water to dilute them and can devastate wildlife such as the young and vulnerable fish to be found in our rivers in summer.  Less water in the river also means that the water heats up more quickly, reducing the levels of oxygen in the water upon which aquatic wildlife depends.

More water is being taken from rivers to fill our taps through abstraction due to the dry conditions, and It is clear that the relationship between abstraction and river health will continue to be a growing theme in conservation as pressures increase. Last year, we had only 79 per cent of average rainfall. Thames Water’s East London desalination plant is likely to be in operation soon, signalling the extent of the current shortage.

While water is used for many purposes, ultimately water companies must abstract from rivers as much water as people use. To reduce this pressure, we need to push for greater water efficiency at all levels. There simply isn’t enough water around to meet all needs, at present.

Everyone needs to address this problem now before it is a problem for all of us.

– use to be attributed to Thames21 Chief Executive, Debbie Leach.

See Defra’s statement here