The summer of 2022 was one of the hottest England has ever seen, matched only by the summer of 2018, with exceptionally high temperatures and heatwave conditions seen in July and August… and a new temperature record set, with the mercury topping 40 degrees C for the first time ever.
Statistics from the Met Office show that four out of the five warmest summers on record in England have all taken place since 2003, driven by human-induced climate change… and 2022 is the driest year thus far since 1976.
The warmest and driest parts of the country relative to average were in the east, while both East Anglia and narts of the north-east experienced their hotter summers on record. Taking the UK as a whole, 2022 was provisionally the fourth warmest summer ever, while it was the eighth warmest summer for Scotland and Wales, and the 12th warmest for Northern Ireland.
Dr Mark McCarthy from the National Climate Information Centre said: “For many this summer’s record-breaking heat in July – where temperatures reached 40.3 degrees C at Coningsby in Lincolnshire – will be the season’s most memorable aspect.
“However, for England to achieve its joint warmest summer takes more than extreme heat over a couple of days, so we shouldn’t forget that we experienced some persistently warm and hot spells through June and August too.”
At the end of August, in fact, the Environment Agency announced that the entire south-west region of England is now in drought following some of the driest conditions in almost 90 years. Bristol, Somerset, Dorset, south Gloucestershire and parts of Wiltshire have all now been moved to drought status, joining Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
And earlier this month (October 14th), the National Drought Group (NDG) forecast that average winter rainfall levels would be insufficient to avoid impending drought or drought conditions next year, with many water companies suggesting that such conditions will continue beyond spring in some parts of the country, such as the south-west, south-east, Yorkshire and the East Midlands… if rainfall is below average.
If average rainfall is seen, it’s expected that water resources will reach either normal or recovering conditions come the spring, although various suppliers have predicted that some supply areas will continue to either be in drought or impending drought conditions.
But even if typical rainfall is recorded over the winter months, it’s possible that environmental impacts will still be felt in 2023 because of a lag in the environmental response, a direct result of the dry weather. This will include impacts on fish populations and a rise in environmental incidents such as fish rescues because of lower river flows.
The latest monthly national water situation report also shows that, for the first time in six months, rainfall in England reached average levels. However, because soil is still drier than it usually would be, this has made little to no difference to reservoir levels and, as such, the majority of the country is still in drought.
Off the back of this, the NDG is now advising that all sectors and industries must put plans in place for all projected scenarios, which includes using water wisely and maximising supply access to supplies for both organisations and the environment.
Sir James Bevan, NDG chair and chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Our lives, livelihoods and nature all depend on one thing – water. Climate change and population growth mean we need to take action now to ensure we have enough over the coming decades to manage everyday supplies, and more intense drought events.
“We have a plan to do that and delivering it will require all of us to work together – government, water companies, regulators, farmers and businesses and each of us as individuals. The Environment Agency is determined to do its part.”
How can businesses improve drought resilience?
Water underpins everything we do and businesses would be wise to make a few changes to their operations and supply chain so they can become more resilient to drought and shore themselves up against potential disruption in the future.
There’s a lot that can be achieved where water efficiency is concerned and a good first place to begin is water leak detection and repair.
The problem with water leaks is that they typically take place far below ground which makes them hard to spot, or they’re so small that they’re barely noticeable… but, over time, small trickles can add up to a lot of money, both in terms of water wasted and potential water damage onsite, so prioritising this can make a huge difference financially and environmentally.
Technology can also be used to great effect across your site and it might be wise to consider installing low-flow products and more efficient appliances, such as toilets, showerheads, dishwashers, tap aerators and so on. These are quick little switches you can make that can have a significant impact on water conservation.
Smart tech is also available that can help businesses across all industries reduce their water footprint. Automated meter reading, for example, monitors water usage continuously so that issues can be identified quickly and water-saving solutions brought in as and where appropriate.
Landscaping is another area businesses can focus on that could help them save water. Choosing drought-resistant plants, for example, means you can water them less, while drip irrigation is an efficient way of watering the garden instead of using sprinkler systems.
Smart sensors can also be installed that measure moisture levels and weather conditions, so that watering is only carried out when necessary.
It’s also important to consider the wider supply chain, however, since drought is a global issue and if you have suppliers in other countries, their operations may well be affected by situations in their local area. Making your business world smaller and working with suppliers in closer proximity to you can make a big difference in this regard.