Drought measures granted

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A series of drought measures have been granted in Yorkshire, which will allow Yorkshire Water to protect reservoir levels through winter and into 2023 as the region's reservoirs remain below usual levels despite recent rainfall. 

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has approved a drought order, which will allow Yorkshire Water to increase the amount of water it extracts from the River Ouse.  

The Environment Agency (EA) has also issued drought permits that will allow Yorkshire Water to conserve water in 12 reservoirs and secure public drinking water supplies. The permits apply to the water company’s North West group of reservoirs across Wharfedale, Bingley, Shipley, Craven, Yeadon, Baildon and the Worth Valley.  

The EA said it was satisfied that the current water situation was due to an exceptional shortage of rain and that it had seen evidence of Yorkshire Water’s continued commitment to promoting water efficiency, reducing abstraction and driving down its leakage. 

Reservoir stocks in the Worth Valley are also being supported by a £2m temporary pipe scheme that transfers water from Calderdale to the Worth Valley. 

Yorkshire officially moved to drought status on 15 August following six months of below average rainfall combined with high temperatures, which affected most of the country.  

Earlier this month the National Drought Group forecast that average rainfall levels over winter will still not be sufficient to avoid impending drought or drought conditions into next year. Some water companies suggested conditions will remain beyond spring in some areas – including Yorkshire – if rainfall remains below average. The new measures will allow Yorkshire Water to continue to protect drinking water supplies in line with its long-term drought plan. 

Reservoir levels across Yorkshire are around 25% lower than they were at this time last year. 

Polly Hardy, head of asset strategy and policy at Yorkshire Water, said: “Although we’ve seen some patches of rain across Yorkshire recently, there is still a long way to go until reservoirs are at a healthy level. We are going to need quite a lot of wet weather over the next few months before they return to their usual levels, so it’s really important that people keep taking steps to save water. 

“The hosepipe ban we introduced in August helps to reduce water use and pressure on our reservoirs, and it also allows us to apply to the Environment Agency and DEFRA for extra drought measures, like the ones approved this week, which will help us protect drinking water supplies and the environment in the longer term.”