What does the risk of drought mean for our rivers and wildlife?

Jayne Mann


The recent heatwave is posing a risk for our rivers and the wildlife they support. Figures published by Yorkshire Water show that daily water consumption has increased by an extra 200million litres, as people cool off in the summer heat. This, along with the low rainfall, has caused our rivers to become seriously water stressed. The risk of drought is starting to hit the headlines as the concern for water consumption grows. A recent article by the BBC highlights devastating pictures of the rapid loss of water in the River Teme, where more than 500 trout and salmon have been rescued, and the potential loss of aquatic life is likely to be happening in numerous locations across the UK. These low levels of water can have a critical impact upon aquatic ecosystems, threatening fish, invertebrates, vegetation and bird life. Drought can also deteriorate the water quality of our rivers, diminishing the river’s ability to dilute pollutants as well as increase the risk of low oxygen levels. Low river flows, for example, represent a particular risk to migratory fish that require sufficient flow to enable upstream movement towards spawning grounds. Sadly, due to population growth and climate change, this is only the beginning and unless we establish a more efficient, sustainable approach to the management of our water resources, competition for water is likely to increase, leading not only to further detrimental environmental outcomes but economic consequences for those sectors abstracting and using water. So what is being done to help save our rivers from drying out? A number of measures can be adopted to implement a more efficient use of water across all sectors. By reducing demand, we can ensure that there is sufficient water available year-round for our freshwater ecosystems. Through our water stewardship programme, Rivers Trusts are working with businesses and their supply chains to sustainably improve water management. Raising public awareness of water consumption can also play a key role. You can find a list of useful things you can do at home here to help reduce your water consumption. Keep an eye on the latest water reports here.
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