Home   Kent   News   Article

Drought declared for Kent after driest summer for 50 years

A drought has been officially declared in Kent following the driest summer for 50 years.

The National Drought Group has announced the county, along with several other regions, is to be put into official drought status, following conditions which have almost completely deprived some areas of rainfall all summer.

The move comes as South East Water's hospepipe ban comes into affect today, and could lead to further measures - although the Environment Agency has reassured the public that essential water supplies are safe.

The NDG is made up of representatives from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), water companies, the Environment Agency, the National Farmers’ Union, Natural England, Consumer Council for Water, water services regulator Ofwat, Water UK and the Drinking Water Inspectorate, as well as the Angling Trust and the Rivers Trust.

At a meeting earlier this summer, it moved most of England into “prolonged dry weather” status, the first of four stages used to describe it’s response, and has now moved to “drought”, the second stage.

The nine regions affected include Kent and South London; Devon and Cornwall; Solent and South Downs; Herts and North London; East Anglia; Thames; Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire; and East Midlands.

Meanwhile water company's have faced anger over water lost through leaking pipework, while in Meopham repairs to one leak were delayed over eight weeks due to bees.

Low water supplies at Arlington Reservoir in East Sussex
Low water supplies at Arlington Reservoir in East Sussex

Water Minister Steve Double said action was already being taken by the Government, the EA and others to manage the impacts.

“All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe, and we have made it clear it is their duty to maintain those supplies”, he said.

“We are better prepared than ever before for periods of dry weather, but we will continue to closely monitor the situation, including impacts on farmers and the environment, and take further action as needed.”

The most recent EA data showed rainfall totals for August have ranged from 12% of the long-term average in north east England to 0% in south east and south west England.

Meanwhile river flow data revealed almost 90% of measuring sites were showing below normal readings, with 29% classed as “exceptionally low”.

Stock image
Stock image

It comes after the driest July on record for some areas - including Kent - and the driest first half of the year since 1976.

The Environment Agency only 13% of the Long-Term Average rain for the month was recorded in Kent and South London, and that soil moisture deficits continued to increase considerably.

Monthly average river flows in the region ranged from "below normal to exceptionally low", with most falling under the latter category.

Groundwater levels declined at all key sites, ending the month below normal to notably low.

Four water companies, Welsh Water, Southern Water, Thames Water, and South East Water have all imposed hosepipe bans, while Yorkshire Water has announced a ban will start on August 26.

A recent field fire near Dartford. Picture:Jodie Lee Stainer
A recent field fire near Dartford. Picture:Jodie Lee Stainer

The heat and dry conditions have also taken their toll on agriculture.

According to the NFU, crops such as sugar beet and maize are showing signs of stress from a lack of rain, while crops relying on irrigation, such as field vegetables and potatoes, are also facing problems.

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said the situation was “hugely challenging” for farmers who were facing running out of irrigation water and having to use winter feed for animals because of a lack of grass.

The NFU also said “tinder dry” standing crops and parched grass posed a huge risk of fires spreading.

Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “While we are likely to see more wildfires due to the current conditions, it is impossible to say whether this will be more than when the country experienced 40-degree temperatures.

“The bigger risk at the moment is a combination of temperature and wind speed, which will contribute to fire spread and makes incidents harder to manage and extinguish.”

However, he added brigades were “well prepared and have plans in place” to respond.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More