What is a drought?
A drought means a prolonged period of shortages in the water supply. It can happen after an unusually low period of rainfall, for an extended period of time.
Without normal levels of rainfall, reserve water levels start to fall and plants and crops can die. If the dry period continues, it can become a drought.
In the UK, the Environment Agency (EA) decides when we are in drought conditions. The EA works together with water companies to reduce the impact of drought for people in affected areas.
Is the UK experiencing a drought?
The UK isn’t officially in a drought yet, but after a very hot and dry 2022 so far, it’s likely to be declared this October.
Risk of drought in the UK is down to a number of factors:
- After a dry winter and spring, we saw the hottest July since 1935 and record-breaking temperatures.
- Very low levels of rainfall so far this year
These conditions have scorched the earth and dried out reservoirs, bringing hosepipe bans across the country.
With the Met Office forecasting more hot weather and little ‘meaningful rainfall’, it means that a drought in the UK is very likely.
Has human activity caused drought in the UK?
People do tend to use more water in hot weather – taking more showers, watering plants, and cooling off in paddling pools, impacting water supplies.
We’re also an increasing population.
This is why water companies in parts of the UK are imposing hose-pipe bans. As a country, we can pull together and restrict our water usage to save water.
But the main cause of drought is the extreme heat and lack of rainfall we’ve experienced. And that’s down to climate change.