Drought looming over UK amid heatwave and baking temperatures with amber weather warning over Portsmouth and Hampshire
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The National Drought Group – made up of Government and agency officials, water companies and other groups such as the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – is set to meet on Friday to discuss the prolonged dry weather.
There are expectations drought could be declared for the southern and eastern areas of England, prompting action by agencies and water companies to manage water resources to ensure supplies and protect the environment.
Temperatures in Portsmouth are set to peak at 28C tomorrow, with forecasts of hot weather peaking at 36C over the weekend in areas covered by the amber weather warning for extreme heat.
The vulnerable are likely to experience adverse health effects and the wider population could also be affected.
Delays to travel are possible and there is an increased risk of water accidents and fires as more people head to tourist spots.
There is also a heat health alert in place from the UK Health Security Agency, with experts advising people to look out for those who are older or with existing health conditions, as well as young children.
The Met Office said there could be a ‘thundery breakdown’ to the hot weather on Monday, although it was so far uncertain which areas could see rain.
The latest heatwave comes on top of months of low rainfall, leaving the countryside, parks and gardens parched and at risk of wildfires breaking out.
A fire severity index (FSI) issued by The Met Office, an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, is very high for most of England and Wales, and will reach ‘exceptional’ – the highest level – for a swathe of England stretching to the border with Wales by the weekend.
Southern Water has implemented a hosepipe ban for customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and Thames Water, which supplies 15 million customers in London and the Thames Valley, has said it will bring in one in the coming weeks.
Conservationists are calling for an England-wide ban on using hosepipes to protect struggling wildlife and rivers which are at exceptionally low levels in parts of the country.
Climate change is making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely, with last month’s record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming and ‘virtually impossible’ without it, research shows.
Scientists also warn the likelihood of droughts occurring is becoming higher due to climate change, which is driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.
Experts at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), the professional body for those working in the environmental sector, warn that the UK must become more resilient to the changing climate.
IEMA deputy chief executive Martin Baxter said: ‘We have to become more resilient to hotter drier summers, which we are now experiencing due to climate change and which will over time become more frequent.
‘We have to double down and reduce the leakage in our water systems, losing three billion litres per day is unacceptable when an average household uses just 142 litres per day.
‘We must help people use less water by, for example, having showers rather than baths, not using a hosepipe, planting drought resilient plants, and by installing water meters in homes.’