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Envireau Water newsletter


08/01/2018
 

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WELCOME TO 2018!

I hope that you enjoyed your break and are now raring to go.  This time last year my prediction for 2017 was: 

“2017 might best be summed up as ‘unpredictable’”. To paraphrase, I went for a settled dry spring but finishing with a wet flourish; a hot early summer but stormy later on and in early autumn; with a mild but wet winter. Interestingly, I commented that we would need rain by the end of the year. From a regulatory point of view, I suggested that there will be some breath holding until March, and then a flurry of activity.

It turned out that winter was dry and mild; spring was warm and dry; summer was rather wet, with rainfall above average for the UK in each individual month and ranked as the sixth wettest summer in the UK in a series since 1910; and autumn overall was rather unsettled, but particularly dry in the south-east.  A recurring theme was that the south-east of England had intermittent rainfall, with long periods of dry weather interspersed with high intensity storms. I noted several conversations with Environment Agency staff in Kent, which switched from drought worries to flood alerts as regularly as the chimes in the Herne Bay clock.

The regulatory breath was indeed held, but for longer than we expected. The flurry of activity was, after thirteen years or so, when New Authorisations were dumped on us with just two months to prepare.

I think trying to predict the weather is fun, but we cannot control it, we can only control our response to it. I sat in many meetings in the spring discussing drought - what it means, its impacts and how we should respond to it. Many of those meetings focussed on the production of food. On one hand there was a wish not to mention the D word, for fear of scaring water company customers (who include you and me) with images of standpipes - we were never anywhere near that situation. On the other hand, there was the very real prospect of restrictions in late spring and early summer on abstraction of water for irrigating crops. This would have had a very damaging effect on the food supply chain in the UK. The dry autumn and low recharge rates in early winter means that concern has not yet retreated. The concept of “an agricultural drought” being different from “environmental” or “water supply” droughts was discussed at length in these meetings, but never in the media. If it was, it would probably have been ridiculed as “the wrong sort of rain” by journalists that pour scorn on science, debate and expertise. In fact, the discussion of different types of drought is a perfect illustration of the interrelationships and complexities of the natural world which manifest themselves in very practical ways that affect everybody in the street.

The communication of the complexities of our industries, whether to our colleagues, bosses, investors, regulators and the general public is an increasingly important part of what we do. No longer is producing, making or growing things just that. It is a complex interaction of systems, a problem with any one of which causes a problem with the final product. 2018 sees the start of a fundamental change in water resources management in the UK. Communicating how our activities interact with the production and protection of water supplies and the environment connected to them, will be an increasing part of what you do if you are involved in the abstraction of water for any purpose, or your developments have the potential to impact on natural water systems.

PREDICTION FOR 2018

Rather than forecast the weather, I’m going to hope that on balance we get about an average year in terms of rainfall. That we get some good “recharge weather” between now and May; that the summer brings a healthy balance between sunshine, warmth and wet; and that next winter gives us useful frost.

To finish, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours all the very best for 2018 and suggest that you keep your head down, your wits about you and carry on.



JAMES DODDS
JANUARY 2018

 
 
 
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2018 To Do List
 

Trickle irrigation, quarry dewatering and abstraction in geographically exempt areas now need an abstraction licence. If you are already abstracting, or plan to abstract more or at new locations, speak with Envireau Water.
 

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Make 2018 the year that you collect your own data on water availability from your borehole, or river. A first step would be collecting regular and frequent water level data.
 

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Is the dry autumn of 2017 the start of a 2018 drought? Keep an eye on rainfall/water resources summaries for your area. If you have been collecting data, learn how to plot it to help you predict what might happen.
 

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Changing your borehole pump this year? Take the opportunity to undertake a condition survey at the same time. More than a video log, understand the construction, the geology and the water chemistry too, by undertaking a full geophysical suite.
 

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Developers should consider not only flood risk and drainage as part of a planning application, but also during construction. The Environment Agency are prosecuting for discharge of suspended solids from sites. It just takes forethought and commitment.
 

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You need to be quick if you want to book a place on our Controversial Geoscience – Dealing with Public Perception