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Water Storage & Irrigation Abstraction Warnings from the Agency

The River Lavant, West Sussex, Should be flowing this time of year.

The Environment Agency has warned that more abstraction restrictions will be needed to tackle the problem of falling water levels in the face of climate change and population growth.

Figures released by the Environment Agency show that rivers across the country are being restored to a healthier state due to tighter rules on the amount of water being taken from them by water companies, businesses and agriculture. However, the Agency is warning that further action is required to reduce the amount of water taken from rivers at a further 210 sites across England and Wales.

New analysis suggests that with climate change and population growth many rivers could be up to 80 per cent lower during the summer in the next 40 years – increasing the challenge of ensuring there is enough water for people, business, farmers and the environment.

The news on abstraction comes as parts of England prepare for drought this summer – after an exceptionally dry winter left rivers and groundwaters low. Water levels are very dependant on winter rainfall filling up rivers, lakes

and underground water sources, and with some areas of the country having now seen the driest 12 months since records began, pressure on water resources is set to increase. Southern Water have been granted a drought permit application in order to refill the Bewl reservoir and Thames Water has four possible permit applications under consideration.

Anglian Water was granted permits to take extra water from the River Nene to top up its Pitsford and Rutland reservoirs in November and December respectively.

South East Water had a drought order granted in December to replenish Ardingly Reservoir, but sonce then rainfall has relieved the situation.

Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and West Norfolk are still in drought as confirmed by the findings of the Drought summit (see page 24)

Agency working to restore water levels at over 200 locations

The Environment Agency is continuing to work to restore water levels at around 210 locations, and funding has been secured so that water companies can improve 150 sites by 2015, benefiting over 1,100 miles of river and 200 square miles of wetlands.

The Agency’s Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme is seeking to identify, investigate and solve environmental problems caused

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by abstraction licences. Government will reform water abstraction regime

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “We have seen over the last year the problems that a lack of water can create; environmental damage caused when rivers run low, farmers unable to irrigate their crops and some water companies taking steps to protect water supplies.

“These figures demonstrate the Environment Agency’s success in restoring our rivers to protect them for future generations, but we will need to continue to take action to ensure our rivers keep flowing.

“The publication of ‘Water for Life’ last year set out our plans to continue improving the condition of our rivers by reforming the water abstraction regime."

The Government intends to introduce legislation early in the next Parliament. In 2013 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will consult on detailed proposals and plans a staged roll-out of the proposed new abstraction regime.

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