Essex: April rainfall more than double the average but hospipe ban to remain

HOSEPIPE bans in Essex could still last until next year despite April rainfall being more than double the average for the month.

Anglian Water said the wettest April on record would not “fundamentally change” the region’s drought-like conditions.

But it comes after the Environment Agency issued flood warnings for several Essex rivers.

The breaches are a result of an April deluge that saw 90mm in Andrewsfield, near Braintree. Norwich-based forecasters Weatherquest said the 10-year April average for both sites was around 45mm.

Despite the rainfall, both the Environment Agency and Anglian Water said it would take a long time to have an impact on stocks.

Anglian Water, which covers large parts of north Essex, introduced a hosepipe ban at the start of April.

Ciaran Nelson, a spokesman for the utility firm, said: “It could be feasible the hosepipe ban could be with us through the summer and well into the autumn. It could feasibly last beyond Christmas but we’re doing everything in our power to lift it as soon as we can. We’ve got to be careful not to let the recent rainfall mask the ‘hidden drought’ that still exists in our groundwater stores – the aquifers that supply about 50 per cent of all the water that our customers use.

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“These aquifers are still notably low. It takes longer for them to be affected by drought, but it also takes longer for them to recover when it rains – many months, in some cases.

“We may have had the wettest April on record – one of the few recent months with above average rainfall – but that follows the driest March since 1953, at the end of the driest 18 months in a century.

“The irony of having a hosepipe ban in place while it’s throwing it down isn’t lost on us. This rainfall is helpful because it dissuades people from watering their plants and washing their cars, so it does suppress demand for water.

“It’s going to have refilled everyone’s water butts, too. However, it won’t fundamentally change the underlying situation, or ‘fix’ the drought, unless it persists for many more weeks, if not months.

“We must not forget that we’re trying to reverse the deficit created by two years of below average rainfall.”

The Environment Agency has issued flood warnings for rivers Wid, Can, Blackwater, Pant and Brain in Essex.

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “Although we’re seeing lots of rain, it will take several weeks for the rain to trickle through to groundwater. We regularly monitor groundwater and will revise our drought advice if appropriate.

“As we are entering the fast-growing season, if the rain stops we could still see rivers and soil dry out again quickly so it is important that restrictions remain in place until we are certain that groundwater levels are properly restocked.”