Another big drought for the UK??

30 December 2011

Are we facing a drier future? (Photo: Bill Harding)

If the winter rains are not up to spec this year, the UK could be facing another big drought.

THE state of Oxfordshire’s rivers and the threat of a drought are causing mounting concerns with water levels described as “exceptionally low”.  Water flows in the Thames, Evenlode, Cherwell, Thame and the Ock are now believed to be around half or less the normal rate.

Thames Water said it is switching on a back-up network of underground water storage reserves for the first time since 2006, amid fears of a summer drought. The company confirmed it still requires 80 per cent of average winter rainfall to avoid the likelihood of drought-related water-use restrictions in the region next year.

The Thames Valley has seen below average rainfall for 16 of the past 20 months, with Farmoor Reservoir 86 per cent full, at a time of year when it would be expected to be full.

A report from the BBC has pointed to threats facing freshwater organisms in Europe:

Many of Europe’s freshwater fish and molluscs are now threatened species, a new EU study shows.  The European Commission called for urgent action to preserve the diversity of Europe’s wildlife. Pollution, overfishing, habitat loss and alien species are blamed for the decline in species.

The latest findings are based on a study of some 6,000 species for the European Red List – an assessment of threats to wildlife.

The list of Europe’s threatened species includes 44% of all freshwater molluscs, 37% of freshwater fish, 23% of amphibians, 19% of reptiles, 15% of mammals and dragonflies and 13% of birds.

The Commission says 467 plant species are also under threat, including wild varieties of crops such as sugar beet, wheat, oats and lettuce. Such species are “vital for food security yet are often neglected in terms of conservation,” the Commission says.

The City of Victoria in Canada is wondering whether saline groundwater used to top-up a freshwater lake, Beacon Hill Park’s Goodacre Lake, will harm or alter the plants and beasties living there.

For years, the lake was replenished with city water. In 2003, a well was dug and used to top up the lake during the dry summer months. But last year, it was noticed that the salinity in the lake had risen and was linked to the well water.

Goodacre Lake dates back to the 1800s. For about 80 years, it was fed with fresh city water entering the system through the fountain at Fountain Lake and draining continuously out the northeast end of Goodacre.

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