Reservoirs levels being topped up by double last years supply from Cambridgeshire

By Local Democracy Reporter
Piers Meyler

WATER company bosses say water levels at Essex’s two main reservoirs are healthy, but have admitted that due to dry weather the amount of water being diverted from the Cambridgeshire Fens is around twice the amount compared to the same time last year.

Essex and Suffolk Water, which manages Abberton and Hanningfield reservoirs, says Hanningfield is currently at 86 per cent storage and has been refilling well in recent months.

The county’s largest reservoir, Abberton, is currently at 140 per cent of its pre-enlargement storage (the Abberton expansion scheme was completed in 2014).

They add that there are no plans to implement any restrictions or hosepipe bans.

However, transfers from the Ely Ouse scheme have been higher than last year due to the lower than average rainfall we have seen over the past 12 months.

An Essex and Suffolk Water spokesman said: “The amount of water provided by the Ely Ouse to Essex transfer scheme is set by the Environment Agency, and is dependent on rainfall and river flows.

“For the majority of May 2019 around 153 megalitres per day have been transferred for Hanningfield and Abberton, compared with 8-85 megalitres per day for the majority of May 2018.”

Essex is the driest county in the UK. During a dry year, insufficient water is available from within Essex to meet customer demand. Since the 1970s, Essex has relied on transfers of water from the Ely Ouse to fill Abberton and Hanningfield reservoirs, which between them hold 66,000 megalitres of water.

Under the scheme, surplus water which would otherwise flow into The Wash, is transferred to fill Abberton Reservoir.

The Environment Agency has also warned of tightening restrictions on farmers ability to abstract water – from May 2018 to January 2019 East Anglia has seen the fourth driest period since records began in 1910.

It has also seen a reduced amount of rainfall in the area in most months, with only August, October and November 2018 rainfall being close to the long term average.

June was the driest month of last year, and the second driest on record (since 1910), with only 7mm of rainfall.

Following a dry start to the autumn in 2018, rainfall between November 2018 and February 2019 has been around 80 per cent of the long term average in the east and only 75 per cent in the west.

Most of this rainfall was soaked up by the unseasonably dry soils or by intermittent percolation directly into aquifers.

The winter has seen very low total river flows, significantly affecting the availability of water to fill storage reservoirs.

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