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Water, water everywhere

You might have thought we’ve had enough rain over the winter. December and January seemed to have restored the balance of the 2022 dry year; the streams and rivers filled, and our springs and winterbournes were active again. As I mentioned in my last blog, I have had an interesting question raised as part of the searches for the purchase of farmland, as to whether the flow from a winterbourne spring constituted ‘flooding’? I didn’t think so, but if anyone had walked the land in that short period in January 2023, they would have seen water on the surface. It probably won’t happen next year! Especially as we’ve just had one of the driest Februarys on record – my amateur measurements show just 3.5mm of rainfall , when the February average over the last forty years is nearer 60mm. So, our water reserves remain low even if the aquifers many hundreds of feet below ground are relatively unaffected.

Water is such a vital resource although here in the UK we’ve probably always taken it for granted; we watch reports of drought and ‘unfit to drink’ water in Africa and other places around the world, and think that this could never happen in England – a bit like earthquakes you could say? But we should stop to think how much we waste our water and do not respect it. We also spoil it. Reports of contamination and pollution – even by public utilities who definitely should know, and practice, better ­– are regularly seen in the media.

A well-respected local farmer has just remarked to me that he hopes 2023 isn’t going to be like the summer of 1959 – which apparently followed a dry winter and brought record high temperatures. Once again, we would then hear of ‘drought’ conditions, but more is then affected than watering the garden or cleaning the car in the drive! Crops can fail; food supplies will be at risk; costs will escalate; Nature and its habitats will suffer. Who will then care for those thousands of recently planted trees, said to be the country’s saviour in order to reach ‘carbon neutral’?

We seem to still be very short-sighted and with short memories. And also quick to cast blame when things do not seem as available as we deem they should be. Is it part of the ‘living for the now’ culture rather than investing in the longer term? Perhaps we should all be responsible, and even now, heed the warning signs and take our own steps towards safeguarding the future.

I notice an article in the Farmers’ Weekly on this very subject – ‘Harvesting Water’. Perhaps those resourceful engineers who are working on ways we can store electricity now that there is a measurable amount being produced from ‘renewable’ sources (I heard this week that UK renewables may now provide 35% of our power needs) can identify more ways to conserve water (even from the roofs of buildings?). Should water be our focus, especially at this time of year? Then everyone will benefit, as well as appreciate the need to ensure that what we have is there when we need it.

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