An Eye on our Environment Weather and water
Monday 23rd July 2018 @ 12:07 by Tom Greggan
Community News Tameside

The Environment Agency’s Lee Rawlinson, area director for Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, writes for the Reporter and Chronicle. In his latest monthly column, Lee turns is attention to the importance of the weather…

Wet weather is not something most of us want to see. But without it, our drinking water could be impacted, our rivers, lakes and groundwater levels will drop, the environment and wildlife will suffer, canals won’t operate and there won’t be enough water for industries such as farming.

All of us in Greater Manchester have been enjoying relatively dry and sunny weather for weeks, leading many media outlets to proclaim that it has been the ‘hottest May on record’ and June has not been much wetter!

However, low amounts of rainfall over a prolonged period can cause problems for the environment and these sunny spells mean we are taking significant notice of our region’s rivers and other water sources.

In Greater Manchester, our water supply could be referred to as a tale of two halves. While our local rivers, groundwater and reservoirs are coping with the dry weather, much of our actual ‘everyday water’ comes from the lakes of Cumbria and North Wales.

Cumbria’s unique geography makes it very sensitive to dry spells and it is not unusual for some rivers and lakes in the North West to shrink, even during short periods of low rainfall, but on the flip-side, they do tend to recover quickly when the rain returns.

However, we have to be prepared should the dry weather spell continue, and with that in mind United Utilities have just announced that a hosepipe ban will be implemented in our region from August 5.

The Environment Agency’s advice on preserving water during hot and dry weather.

Each week, our hydrology experts monitor river flows and groundwater to see how much water there is and plan accordingly.

When levels go lower than we would like, we actively work alongside water companies, businesses and farmers to ensure that, at all times, we make the best use of the water available and minimise the potential impacts to people and the environment

Just like in a flood scenario, robust and well tested plans are always in place during periods of dry weather and everyone has a part to play; including you.

If we all save a little bit of water now this may help avoid more restrictions in the summer. You can do this by looking at the way you use water in your home and making sure you are being as efficient as possible.

United Utilities have some top tips for saving water, energy (and even some spare change), by making some simple changes including only washing full loads in your washing machine or dishwasher and turning the tap off when you brush your teeth! All easy day-to-day changes that will protect our water levels and our environment.

Another interesting snippet surrounding dry weather can be the issues it causes for the environment. For example, have you ever wondered what’s causing the water in your local river to turn blue?

You may be looking at the signature of an algal bloom. Warm weather is the perfect environment for these blooms, and aside from being an eyesore, they can make people and animals ill if they evolve into a harmful algal bloom (HAB).

It is always worth remembering that if you spot anything in your local watercourse that you are unsure of, just give us a call and our teams can investigate.

The same rule applies for our local wildlife, particularly in warm weather. Next time you are near a river, if you see fish gulping for air or something that does not look normal this could because of reduced river flows or pollution so do please call our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

By making that call, rest assured that you are helping us to protect the environment.

Lee Rawlinson is the Area Director for the Environment Agency’s Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire region. You can get more information about the work of the Environment Agency or what’s going on in your area by following us on Twitter @EnvAgencyNW