1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

UK: Droughts in England, Thames source at its driest ever

August 12, 2022

The British government said some regions in England had officially moved into drought status. Meanwhile, the source of the River Thames is experiencing an unprecedented lack of water, according to media reports.

A small puddle of residual water lies in the middle of a dried-up pond in the Oxfordshire village of Northend, where "Thames Water" is pumping water into the supply network following a technical fault at Stokenchurch Reservoir. The Met Office has issued a weather warning for the next four days after Aug. 11 due to extreme heat and fire danger
In this image a puddle lies in the middle of a dried-up pond in the Oxfordshire village of NorthendImage: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/dpa/picture alliance

Amid its driest spell of weather in well over a century, the UK is on the verge of introducing a hosepipe ban in some parts of the country, while the source of the River Thames is experiencing an unprecedented lack of water, according to media reports on Friday.

The river that runs through the British capital stretches 215 miles (356 kilometres) across southern England, from Gloucestershire in the west to Essex in the east, before entering the sea.

And the source of the river has dried up further downstream than ever before, as some regions in England said they were suffering droughts — something experts have suggested authorities are ill-prepared for.

"All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe," Water Minister Steve Double said in a statement.

The Met Office — the UK's national weather service — has already declared last month as the driest for England since 1935, with average rainfall at 23.1 millimetres (0.9 inches), while some regions experienced their driest July ever.

Hosepipe bans

In the north of England, Yorkshire Water announced on Friday that it would introduce a hosepipe ban from August 26, in the hope of reducing water usage as the utility firm said the county is experiencing its lowest rainfall since records began more than 130 years ago.

"The hot, dry, weather means that Yorkshire's rivers are running low and our reservoirs are around 20% lower than we would expect for this time of year," Yorkshire Water's Director Neil Dewis said.

"We've been doing everything we can to avoid putting in restrictions but unfortunately, they're now necessary as part of our drought planning," he said in comments carried by local newspaper the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Meanwhile, Thames Water, which supplies some 15 million people across London and south east England, also said it was planning to introduce a ban on the use of hosepipes and sprinkler systems.

Hottest recorded temperatures

Parts of Europe have faced weeks of searing temperatures that have sparked large wildfires, threatening crops and draining water levels as the continent battles the effects of climate change.

The Met Office has declared a four-day "extreme heat" warning in several parts of England and Wales, that came into effect on Thursday.

This comes after the weather agency announced it had registered Britain's hottest temperature ever on July 19 with 40.2 C (104.3 F) recorded at London's Heathrow Airport. The previous record was 38.7 C (101.6 F) in Cambridge in 2019.

Britain not prepared for climate change, says expert

Climate expert and hydrologist at the University of Reading Hannah Cloke said a lack of rain has left river levels and aquifers alarmingly low, while water has been removed from the waterways to irrigate crops, top up drinking water and for use in industry.

"If we don't get rain in August, in fact, if we have a dry winter, then we could be in severe trouble come spring and next summer when we really don't have any water stores left whatsoever," news agency Reuters reported Cloke as saying.

Cloke added that while curbs on the use of hosepipes were useful, more needs to be done to help change attitudes over water usage. Moreover, she said investment in infrastructure and policy on preventing further climate change were more important than ever before.

Brandenburg struggles with recurring drought

Edited by Jenipher Camino Gonzalez

John Silk Editor and writer for English news, as well as the Culture and Asia Desks.@JSilk