Ipswich: April rainfall higher than expected but hosepipe ban remains in place

Since the beginning of April and for the first time in 20 years, we haven’t been able to water our gardens, wash our cars, or fill our swimming pools – if you’ve got one – with a hosepipe.

The hosepipe ban has been in force since April 5 and no one knows for how long it will continue or when it will end.

According to Anglian Water the ban is “In direct response to the serious drought situation across the east of England,” and “everyone is being asked to take action today to help safeguard water supplies for this year, 2013 and beyond”.

But in our area April has been pretty wet with rainfall expected to be by the end of the month well above average.

Steve Weston of Weatherquest told the Ipswich Star: “We have already exceeded the average April rainfall for Wattisham. We are running at about 110 per cent of average monthly rainfall for April.

“We expect the last week of April to be very wet with rain and showers on most days.”

Steve said final figures for April won’t be available for several weeks.

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He added: “The total rainfall for this month is expected to be well above average.”

But despite the abundant April showers, the last 18 months have been the driest in over 100 years, so rivers, reservoirs and groundwater levels across the UK are at very low levels, leading to the hosepipe ban and ongoing appeals to domestic users to save water, particularly in anticipation of a third dry winter.

A spokesman for Anglian Water said: “The irony that it has rained most days since the hosepipe ban was introduced has not been lost on us. It is a relief for the environment, and I’m sure our customers will have found it useful in the garden as well.

“Although April has seen higher than average rainfall in a few areas, including Suffolk, it was also the driest March since 1953 and we must keep in mind that this drought is the result of almost two years of below average rainfall, including two very dry winters. Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than a few wet weeks to reverse the impact of that.

“While all the recent rainfall is useful for the environment, it won’t do much to change the underlying problem, or “fix” the drought.”

The spokesman said the rain has meant few people will have had any need to consider getting the hosepipe but it doesn’t fundamentally change the status of the drought and the need to have a hosepipe ban.

He added: “Unless this rain persists for months, it’s unlikely to have a long-term impact on river, reservoir and aquifer levels.

“We’ve always said that what we need to reverse this drought, and to allow us to lift the ban on the use of hosepipes, is a prolonged period of above average rainfall, over winter, when it can have the most impact on rivers, reservoirs, and underground aquifers. These reservoirs and aquifers are the stores of water we rely on for our drinking water supplies.

“We’ve introduced a hosepipe ban now because we’re already thinking about 2013, and the prospect of a third dry winter. We’re taking prudent and precautionary steps now to ensure that, should the worst happen and we have another winter of low rainfall, we are in the best position we can be to maintain customers’ supplies.”

So precious is this resource and so high the demand a plan is being considered to flow water from the Midlands to the drought-hit East.

An estimated 30million litres of water per day – enough to supply 100,000 homes in the Anglian Water region – could be transferred 80 miles from Birmingham to Gainsborough under the scheme. But it’s still not enough to cancel the hosepipe ban.

Simon Love, head of drought response at Anglian Water, said: “We are talking to Severn Trent about this idea, and it’s one that we are taking seriously. We are exploring a number of options to help support the drought-hit region, including the movement of water across water company boundaries.

“In the short term, though, it’s vital that everyone takes steps to save water in the home. Large-scale support like this scheme could help, but even if we are able to make it work, it won’t mean we can cancel this summer’s hosepipe ban.”

And May’s weather?

Steve added: “It looks like it will be rather wet in May. We are sceptical of some reports that it will be the coldest May for 100 years, but it is certainly going to be unsettled.”