It seems as though summer has finally arrived here in North Cornwall. This is the Met Office weather forecast for the next week:
The Met Office has also issued a heat-health alert for the coming week, although it is seems unlikely that a “heat wave” will officially be declared in Cornwall:
Apart from the potential impact on human health, long periods of hot weather also mean reduced rainfall and increased demand for water. According to the BBC:
South West Water (SWW) wants people in Devon and Cornwall to try to save five litres of water a day to maintain the levels of reservoirs.
“It’s been a dry start to the summer and we need your help to save water where you can,” said SWW.
The dry spell, more visitors and more people living in the region, are putting increased pressure on supplies. And demand for water is set to increase as temperatures rise in the region said the company. If each of its 2m customers saved five litres of water a day, that would save 10m litres, said the firm.
Lisa Gahan, the director responsible for water resources, said: “It’s been very dry over the last 12 months and while reservoir levels are good we have had lots of dry spells. More people are coming down on holiday and more people are living here. We just want to make sure there’s enough water for everyone to enjoy.”
The average customer uses about 150 litres a day according to SWW which said it should be relatively easy to save water.
According to the current Devon & Cornwall Area Drought Plan during the “dry year” of 1995 that SWW use for comparison purposes there was:
Severe pressure on surface water resources and distribution systems, dependent on spring and summer run-off; hosepipe bans.
To be frank the 2022 level doesn’t look “good” to me! Closer to home Davidstow’s local Crowdy Reservoir isn’t big enough to merit a graph of its own, but according to the South West Lakes Trust web site it is currently only slightly more full than Colliford:
Perhaps now would be a good time to start implementing some of South West Water’s top water saving tips, such as using a watering can filled from a rainwater butt rather than a hosepipe?
Perhaps South West Water could also do more to save water? According to their web site:
We’ve halved leakage levels in our region, and have one of the lowest levels in the industry. We know there’s more work to do. As part of our plans for the future, we’re targeting a further 15% reduction in leakage by 2025.
However according to Ofwat’s 2020-21 Service Delivery Report:
South West Water… failed to achieve their 2020-21 targets. South West Water’s… three year average leakage is higher than in the baseline year and requires significant reduction.
Also according to Ofwat’s report South West Water missed their target of 24.51 pollution incidents per 10,000 km of sewer. They actually managed to achieve 144.30 compared to a “sector average” of 31.91![Edit – July 13th]
Here are the latest water storage readings for Cornwall’s two largest reservoirs:[Edit – July 19th]
In the midst of record high temperatures across Cornwall and the rest of the country here’s a message from South West Water:
Meanwhile Colliford Lake is now half empty:
Stithians Reservoir is also in the news today. According to the BBC:
Low water levels have uncovered prehistoric treasures beneath a Cornish reservoir.
A collection of cup-marked stones are among the artefacts to have emerged at Stithians Reservoir near Falmouth.
There is also evidence of medieval farmsteads and modern pottery on the shoreline that is usually under water.
Archaeoastronomer Carolyn Kennett visited the lake on Monday and said: “I have not seen the water this low in a long while.”
Here’s the current water storage situation at Stithians:[Edit – July 21st]
Yesterday evening was cooler than of late, so I got on my bike and cycled up the hill to Davidstow Moor to check on the state of our local Crowdy Reservoir. Here is what I discovered:
The South West Lakes Trust has just updated its table of reservoir water levels to the week ending July 17th:
Comparison with the previous week’s readings reveal that Stithians Reservoir lost 4.9% of its total capacity in the week preceding the recent heat wave, Colliford Lake lost 3.1% and Crowdy Reservoir lost 3% (to zero decimal places).
I now await the next set of weekly water level readings with some trepidation! In particular I cannot help but wonder how many weeks it will be before water supply in Cornwall once again becomes greater than demand?
This medium term ensemble temperature forecast suggests that another, albeit more modest, heat wave could be arriving in Cornwall by the end of July:
We’ve just had a few drops of rain fall on Davidstow!
However so far this month there has hardly been any rain in North Cornwall unless you were under a thunderstorm following the recent heatwave, as we were:
Here’s the last four weeks record from the automated rainfall gauge 49104 at Colliford Lake:
Here too is the Met Office’s weather model’s prediction of cumulative rainfall across the UK for the next seven days:
There’s not a lot to look forward to here in Cornwall.[Edit – July 26th]
According to an Environment Agency press release following today’s meeting of the National Drought Group:
[Edit – July 27th]
Regulators and water companies are working together closely to manage water levels and take action where needed, including activating different levels of well-established dry weather plans in the most affected areas.
Most of England has moved into ‘Prolonged Dry Weather’ status – meaning the EA is now taking precautionary actions to mitigate impacts as hydrological conditions deteriorate and enhancing its monitoring and protection of water resources, along with the water companies.
Nowhere in England is currently considered to be ‘in drought’ and most water companies are maintaining good reservoir storage for summer demand. If further measures are required, temporary use bans (more commonly known as hosepipe bans) will be determined by individual water companies and drought permits and drought orders by the Environment Agency and Defra respectively.
However, recent abnormally high temperatures have exacerbated conditions resulting from lower-than-normal rainfall so far this year in many parts of England. With the Met Office forecasting potentially several more dry weeks ahead, particularly in the South and East of the country, the EA and water companies are now enacting the early stages of their well-rehearsed and publicly available drought plans and calling on everyone to do their bit in managing water use.
This will become even more vital in the future as we continue to adapt to a changing climate. Projections show that, by 2050, some rivers could have between 50 and 80 percent less water during the summer and summer temperatures are set to be up to 7.4 degrees hotter.
South West Water have released last week’s water level data for Colliford and Stithians reservoirs:
The water level at Colliford reduced by 3.9% of its total capacity. Stithians fell by 4.4%. Based on past performance the numbers for Crowdy reservoir will arrive in a couple of days.
James Churchfield discussed the Cornish reservoir situation on his BBC Radio Cornwall programme this morning. Here’s a couple of quotes. According to John Leyland from the Environment Agency:
Most of England has already moved into what we term “Prolonged Dry Weather” status, and this is the first stage of a drought. Now there is no single definition of drought, and my advice is don’t wait for it to happen. We are already in prolonged dry weather, and therefore we would already look to the public and users of water to start taking action now.
Lisa Gahan of South West Water had this to say:
If we all were to save 5 litres, which is the equivalent of being in the shower for a minute less than normally, that would save 10 million litres. That’s 125,000 baths. That would make a big difference to the reservoirs if we all took little actions like that. The first stage of our drought plan is to ask the public to use less water. What we’re hoping to avoid is the need to go into “hosepipe bans”, but there is no suggestion at all about turning the tap on and water not coming out because we’re in a much better place than we were 30 years ago in terms of the infrastructure that we have, the appliances that we have, and our awareness of environmental issues.
Please forgive me Lisa if I direct your attention to this current “environmental issue”:
Are you already aware of it?[Edit – July 28th]
The South West Lakes Trust has just updated its table of reservoir water levels to the week ending July 24th:
Our local Crowdy Reservoir is down to 54% of total capacity, a decline of 4% (to zero decimal places).[Edit – July 30th]
The first “hosepipe ban” of 2022 has been announced, by Southern Water rather than South West Water. According to the press release:
[Edit – August 1st]
One of our region’s driest years for a century and highest ever temperatures have caused a drought that threatens to damage the precious habitats of the River Test and River Itchen.
As a result, Southern Water is introducing a Temporary Use Ban (TUB) for its customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to protect these rivers.
The extremely hot weather and reduced rainfall alongside increased demand has left the water levels significantly lower.
There’s no direct risk to customer water supply however, to ensure that everyone works together to protect our rivers, a TUB, or hosepipe ban as they are commonly known, will be implemented from Friday 5 August 2022 for customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
This will be the first time a TUB has been seen in our region since 2012…
Under the terms of this measure, using hosepipes to water gardens or clean cars will no longer be permitted and ornamental ponds and swimming pools must not be filled.
The temperature is currently 24.0 °C indoors here in Davidstow. Here is the Met Office’s forecast for our neck of the woods this morning:
Here is the same forecast, albeit a few hours later:
Finally here is some current “unofficial” temperature readings for North Cornwall via the Met Office’s Weather Observations Website:[Edit – August 3rd]
South West Water have released last week’s water level data for Colliford and Stithians reservoirs:
The water level at Colliford reduced by 2.8% of its total capacity. Stithians fell by 4.5%. Once again we eagerly await the numbers for our local Crowdy reservoir.
In other news South East Water have announced a temporary use ban (AKA “hosepipe ban”) beginning on August 12th:
[Edit – August 5th]
Demand for water in Kent and Sussex reached record highs in July – a situation which has left South East Water with no choice but to restrict the use of hose pipes and sprinklers from 12 August in both counties.
July was the driest in Kent since records began in 1836 and saw the lowest rainfall in Sussex since 1911…
The temporary restrictions will mean that customers will be prevented from using hosepipes for watering their gardens, washing cars, patios and boats and from filling swimming and paddling pools.
As a consequence of very dry ground conditions and the resulting earth movement, South East Water has seen a 50 per cent increase in bursts along its 9,000 miles of mains running deep underground below roads, motorways, railway lines, fields and rivers. This network of pipe, laid end to end, would stretch from England to Australia.
The South West Lakes Trust has just updated its table of reservoir water levels to the week ending July 31st:
Crowdy Reservoir, which supplies the Camelford area, is down to 50% of total capacity. That’s a decline of 4% (to zero decimal places) in one week.
The next article in our “Drought 2022” series can be viewed at:
“The August Heatwave(s) in Cornwall“