Environment Agency Initial Prospects for Irrigation
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February 28, 2019

The Environment Agency (EA) has published their initial prospects for irrigation across areas of England where irrigation is most significant. They will be updating these prospects into the spring.

January ended with typically just less than 50% of long term average rainfall across most parts of England. Most areas of the country were drier than normal for the six month period prior to January. Drier conditions with higher than average temperatures have predominated in February and are forecast to continue until the end of the month due to high pressure. The latest three month Met Office forecast from March to May indicates there is no clear signal on rainfall being above or below average, while above average temperatures are expected to dominate. The extended outlook into March is uncertain with weather systems bringing spells of cloud, rain and strong winds followed by showers and some drier, sunny interludes. The wettest, windiest weather remains most likely in the northwest, with the best of any drier, brighter weather in the south, extending to central areas at times. By late March confidence is low, but there remains a possibility of a return to slowly-evolving weather patterns across the UK giving some drier, brighter spells. The Irrigation prospects reflect the current hydrological conditions and latest available weather forecasts. Many areas are classed as moderate, with groundwater levels in some areas still below normal for the time of the year.

The EA document available here, provides detailed prospects for some areas. It also contains the prospects should the remaining winter rainfall scenarios turn out to be more pessimistic (i.e. drier) than expected continuing into the summer. Therefore a range of prospect forecasts are presented for some areas.

Paul Hammett, NFU’s water specialist has urged growers to monitor irrigation prospect announcements from the EA as they are updated in the months ahead. He said “A return to wet weather conditions could still turn the situation around, but summer drought measures are increasingly likely if dry weather persists, and time is running out to fill farm reservoirs”.

Ensuring your business is resilient to drought

Climate change predictions suggest the extremes of weather we have seen in the last few years are likely to become more frequent in the future. It will become increasingly important to ensure we are as resilient as possible to periods of reduced water resource and drought. The EA continue to recognise the importance of irrigation to the agricultural industry and will aim to work with farmers and others to try to minimise, where possible, the impact of any dry weather on their businesses.

Abstraction is primarily controlled by conditions on licences and licence holders must ensure that they adhere to these at all times. We would encourage all abstractors to review their licences to ensure that they continue to meet their needs. In areas across England in 2009 and 2010, some farmers experienced difficulties lifting crops from dry ground and found that their abstraction licences didn’t cover abstraction beyond the end of September. You may also need to extend the winter season on your licence from February to March.

For those farmers who wish to extend their licensed abstraction period, we strongly recommend that you apply now to formally vary your licence. These variations will provide you with long term drought resilience without the need to talk to the EA in the future for a temporary dispensation. This is particularly important as the allowances in the last few years are unlikely to be made in the future as more farmers formally vary their abstraction periods.

The latest version of the EA’s Flexible Abstraction Position can be found here.

Envireau Water can help you!

Envireau Water has over 20 years’ experience of water management and our team is renowned for designing, negotiating and securing permission for innovative licensing solutions with the EA. We have been successfully supporting clients to get the water that they need. We can assure you that where there is just cause, our good reputation, strong relationships and wealth of experience ensures the strongest possible case is presented with every option explored to ensure a successful outcome. Get in touch on 01332 871 882 or info@envireauwater.co.uk to see how we can support you.

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