Water restrictions are being imposed on British farmers amid mounting concerns over a lack of significant rain and low river flows.
Cumulative rainfall totals for April range from about 18% of the monthly long-term average in East Anglia to 68% in south-west England. River flows range from “below normal” to “exceptionally low” across much of eastern England, from Essex to Yorkshire. North Yorkshire potato grower Andrew Wilson said his first irrigation licence restriction arrived on Saturday 13 April.
River flows were very close to threshold, added Mr Wilson, who said he expected a “no abstraction” notice to follow within days.
So-called hands-off flow conditions – which stop or limit abstraction in streams and rivers when water flows are low – are already active in three North Yorkshire catchment areas: the Swale, Seven and Cod Beck at Thirsk.
In East Anglia, NFU national water specialist Paul Hammett said restrictions on groundwater abstraction were unlikely. But he warned: “We are definitely not panicking, but it is an early irrigation season and we are bracing ourselves for another challenging year.”
Many reservoirs were full, but time was running out to fill the remainder, said Mr Hammett. Some farmers might be allowed to fill reservoirs using river abstraction – but that in itself would require rain to ensure sufficient flow.