Wales at risk of drought after dry February
Despite recent Met Office weather alerts for snow and rain, scientists are warning that some rivers in Wales ran exceptionally low in February.
Last month rain was in short supply with Wales seeing just 22% of its average and reservoir levels were at their lowest for February since 1996, according to data from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
River flows were below-average across much of Wales in too – with many recording around a third of their average monthly flow.
The River Erch in north Wales broke its records for lowest water levels in February.
Although rainy weather in March has rewetted ground, a return to drier conditions could lead to water resource pressures during the summer months.
Experts have warned “unseasonably sustained” rainfall will be needed during the coming months to refill reservoir stocks currently depleted following the dry winter.
Almost all of the UK was drier than normal in February and according to the Met Office’s three-month forecast, the chances of a dry spring are higher than normal.
Drought was declared in Wales last summer following record breaking temperatures and an extended dry spell leading to hosepipe bans, farmers losing crops and some wildlife dying.
Wales’s reservoirs supply up to 243 billion litres of water to England every year with water from Elan Valley supplied to Birmingham and water from Lake Vyrnwy is supplied to Cheshire and Liverpool.
Proposals made earlier this month could see a new pipeline to transfer water from Powys to London and other parts of south-east England.
Catherine Sefton, Hydrologist from UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said: “Total rainfall for Wales overall last month was only 22% of the average rainfall for February in Wales.
“This meant that river flows across Wales were low – notably or exceptionally so – resulting in total outflows from Welsh rivers that were the lowest on record for February (in a series from 1961).
“River flows have responded to the rainfall so far in March, but further rainfall this month and in the coming months will be beneficial for replenishing reservoir stocks, which last month were the lowest for February since 1996.
“However, the February Met Office outlook for March to May was for a higher than normal chance of a dry spring.”
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