Dorset Officially In Drought

Wessex Water has no plans to impose water restrictions but is urging its customers to continue to save water.

Today (Monday 16 April) the Environment Agency classified the Wessex Water region together with the rest of south west England in environmental drought.

Although this does not indicate risks to public water supplies, it does reflect the impact dry weather has had on river flows.

The Wessex Water region has had below average rainfall during the winter, but reservoir storage is “satisfactory” and on average reservoirs are around 85% full. Groundwater levels in the aquifers the company abstracts water from are below average for the time of year.
Head of water resources, Luke de Vial, said: “Although the region is in environmental drought, this does not suggest that we will be imposing water restrictions such as hosepipe bans.

“But we are concerned about the impact dry weather is having on river flows, habitats and agriculture, so we are carefully managing abstraction to help maintain river flows and topping up streams to minimise the problems being caused by the lack of rainfall.

“We are also managing our water resources by moving water from areas that have surplus water to those in deficit.”

An environmental drought status confirms that the lack of rain is taking its toll on the environment, causing problems for wildlife and wetlands. It is different to a water resource drought which occurs when low rainfall leads to lower than usual reservoir and groundwater storage that can impact on the availability of water for public supplies.

Wessex Water has a drought plan which sets out how it will manage water supplies during extended periods of dry weather. Over the years it has invested heavily in its supply network so water can be moved around the region, funded its ‘stream support’ initiative and increased customer awareness about water efficiency. 

In some areas, Wessex Water is topping up streams, as part of its ‘stream support’ initiative, to increase the amount of water available in rivers and for wildlife. Around 20 million litres of water a day is being pumped into catchments in Dorset and Wiltshire. 

Mr de Vial said: “We have 18 locations where we operate ‘stream support’, as part of the conditions of our abstraction licences. Over the coming months we will increase how much water we pump into streams, but this will not impact on customer supplies which are currently sufficient.”

Wessex Water said it was important customers saved water as every litre saved meant more available for the environment.

It is urging people to sign up to its award-winning Target Twenty campaign and save at least 20 litres of water a day. 

This week thousands of customers will receive water-saving top tips for spring and the company is continuing to give out free water saving devices.

Sembcorp Bournemouth Water - which supplies drinking water to approximately half a million people in parts of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire - also stresses it has no plans for water restrictions.