Despite its rainy reputation, the UK’s water reserves are seriously strained – and its insatiable demands are putting pressure on other countries too
When it comes to water scarcity, the last place on Earth you’d think of is rain-soaked England. Winter here is cold and wet. It rains for what feels like weeks on end. Lawns squelch with saturated soil and garden water butts overflow, likely to be unused until April. The UK’s average annual rainfall is a sopping 1200mm, compared to the 300s in Afghanistan, or just double-figures in Egypt.
In the South-East of England, the average annual rainfall lingers around 500-600mm – drier than South Sudan, or Perth, Western Australia
Yet within a few short months, significant parts of the UK will be staring down the barrel of empty water butts. Much of that four-figure average rainfall is propped up by the rainy highlands of Scotland, Wales and Northern England. In the South-East of England, the average
Last year (2018) saw six consecutive months of below average rainfall in England, causing many reservoirs to run dangerously low. This was no ‘one off’ event. The previous year, 2017, saw the driest 10-month period for more than 100 years. You might also like:
The latest Government Water Abstraction plan shows that 28% of groundwater aquifers in England, and up to 18% of rivers and reservoirs, are unsustainably abstracted. Only 17% of England’s rivers are classified as being in ‘good ecological health’.
Yet much of the public