County faces difficult summer unless it rains

Pitsford, Reservoir, Emergency Drought Order  applied for  by Anglian Water. Low water level due to lack of rain. 'Sunday, 13 November 2011
Pitsford, Reservoir, Emergency Drought Order applied for by Anglian Water. Low water level due to lack of rain. 'Sunday, 13 November 2011
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Residents are being warned there could be trouble ahead in Northamptonshire because of a lack of rainfall.

The region is in its first drought since 1996, and the Environment Agency has warned that without critical amounts of water in the next few months the county faces a difficult summer.

The agency has urged residents to carefully consider their water usage to delay any possibility of a hosepipe ban.

Iain Page, the agency’s planning manager for water resources for Northamptonshire, said: “We have had a perpetual lack of rainfall for many months, it is critical and the prospect for rain in the next few months is poor.

“We are working closely with water companies, farmers, growers and environment charities to work through this difficult period.”

He added: “Water is a precious resource and we all need to think about our usage to delay restrictions. We don’t want to alarm people, but this is a serious situation.”

In November and December water levels in the River Nene were the lowest for 40 years and in the 16 months leading up to January, its water flow was 20 per cent lower than the long term average.

At the end of last year Anglian Water was forced to apply for a special permit to continue taking water from the river due to the levels.

The permit runs out next month, and the Environment Agency is unlikely to grant another because of the implications on the river, should the weather continue, leaving the company short of supply.

The Environment Agency can restrict water usage by farmers throughout the summer, but insisted it was an “absolute last resort”.

Maxine Bye, who runs Dovecote pick-your-own farm in Geddington, said she previously had not been affected as bans were usually restricted to domestic use.

She said: “The cost of water has gone up considerably, it’s one of the major costs of growing the fruit. Also when it’s dry, we use more water as we haven’t had the rainfall.”