Experts have warned of widespread crop failures across England, as charities and farmers criticised water companies for dithering over hosepipe bans despite drought being declared across much of the country.
On Friday, the Environment Agency classified eight of the 14 areas of England as being in a drought. Despite this, water companies, including Anglian Water, Southern Water and South West Water have not brought in hosepipe bans. Thames Water said it does not plan to expedite a hosepipe ban expected next week.
Leaked documents seen by the Guardian from a meeting of the National Drought Group show concerning figures about the state of farming in England.
Half of the potato crop is expected to fail as it cannot be irrigated, and even crops that are usually drought-tolerant, such as maize, have been failing.
The group was told “irrigation options are diminishing with reservoirs being emptied fast”, and losses of 10-50% are expected for crops including carrots, onions, sugar beet, apples and hops. Milk production is also down nationally because of a lack of food for cows, and wildfires are putting large areas of farmland at risk.
Farmers are deciding whether to drill crops for next year, and there are concerns that many will decide not to, with dire consequences for the 2023 harvest. Cattle and other livestock are expected to be slaughtered early at lower weights because it is likely farmers will run out of feed for them in winter.
One of the driest areas is East Anglia, which is also home to much of England’s farming, including more than two-thirds of its sugar beet crop and a third of its potato crop.
The Environment Agency has moved into drought in eight of its 14 areas:
Documents seen by the Guardian show the Environment Agency expects a further two areas will move into drought later in August. These are Yorkshire and West Midlands.
The group met earlier this summer to discuss the lack of rainfall and decided to put the country in “prolonged dry weather status”, the first of four emergency dry weather stages, and one step before drought. Now, the country has been tipped into that second stage.
This means water rationing may take place across the country, with fewer barriers for water companies who wish to ban customers from using hosepipes and washing the car with tap water. More severe measures can also be put in place at this stage, including banning the use of sprinklers the cleaning of buildings, vehicles and windows.
Good morning. Drought was officially declared across large parts of England yesterday and the Met Office’s ‘extreme heat’ warning remains in place for much of England and Wales.
With temperatures expected at around 34C in some parts of the country, the Met Office is warning of an increased risks of fires as well as adverse impacts on health for both vulnerable people and the wider population.
It adds that “some delays to road, rail and air travel are possible, with potential for welfare issues for those who experience prolonged delays”.
While the amber heat warning remains in place until the end of Sunday, other parts of the UK could experience intense thunderstorms and possible flooding when it ends.
The Met office said the yellow storm warnings will begin in Scotland and Northern Ireland on Sunday afternoon and spread to England and Wales on Monday.
Forecasters said the storms were likely to be isolated and intense bringing 50mm of rain in some places and the possibility of hail and frequent lightning.
We’ll bring you the latest updates on this story throughout the day.
UK weather: Met Office warns of fire risk with extreme heat warning in place for England and Wales – live | Extreme weather & Latest News Update
UK weather: Met Office warns of fire risk with extreme heat warning in place for England and Wales – live | Extreme weather & More Live News
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