After struggling to cope with the heaviest rainfall on record, Farmers Weekly report that water companies are being urged to examine how they would cope with the worst drought for a century.
The recommendation is contained in Environment Agency draft planning guidelines which include a request for water companies to investigate their resilience to a “drought that is worse than what has been experienced in the past 100 years”.
The guidelines were published as the companies prepare to draw up their next water resources management plans – explaining how they intend to balance supply and demand for water over a 25-year period. The next plans are due to be published in 2019.
NFU water resources specialist Paul Hammett said the guidance had implications for farmers because water availability for agriculture was likely to be affected by the way companies tried to maintain supplies to the wider population during an extreme drought.
Asking for farmers views on the guidelines, Mr Hammett acknowledged that reliance on historical records was a logical starting point for drought planning.
But he warned: “When planning for future extreme weather episodes, past events tell us only part of the story.”
Last month’s floods in Cumbria, which saw a month of rain fall in a day, showed how events could exceed current understanding of relative historic risk, said Mr Hammett.
“We hope that water companies will be at least better equipped to try to meet this challenge in future.”
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