09:36 Monday 5th November 2012
Andy Harper Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
ANDY HARPER: Earlier we had an email from Mandy, who was asking the question, what is the water situation like? This time last year they were warning about possible drought because we’d had such a dry autumn. And then of course we had a very dry spring as well. And like myself, speculating yesterday on how things were underground, Mandy wondered how things were looking. Well, who else to talk to but Kieran Nelson from Anglian Water. Now of course the dry autumn last year was partly to blame for the hosepipe ban, which some of us had last spring and early summer. I know it was a very dry spring as well.But this time round we can’t say it’s been a dry autumn, can we?
KIERAN NELSON: We certainly can’t. It’s not been a dry autumn, nor has it been a dry summer. We had a very very wet few months, didn’t we really? Straight after we announced the hosepipe ban the heavens opened, and it didn’t really stop raining then for a good few months. We had upwards of 200 per cent of the rainfall that we would expect in certain months as we were going through the summer. And that means, fortunately, that now pretty much all of our resources, that’s all of our reservoirs and all the aquifers that we’ve come to know and love over the last few months, they’re all now pretty much brim-full, which is good news.
ANDY HARPER: It was the aquifers I was going to ask you about, because we can see with our own eyes that the reservoirs are full, and the rivers are full, but it’s what goes on underground. Because that’s what we’re always being told about when there are problems, well it’s all very well, there might be water on the surface, but it’s what’s below. But they’re looking good as well?
KIERAN NELSON: They are. Yes. It did take a lot longer for them to recover, and even when we felt that things were looking good in the reservoirs, and as you say people thought we were out of the woods, it did take a while for the aquifers to properly recharge. And the reason for that is typically they would only fill up in the winter. So normally they only use winter rainfall to top themselves up before we get to spring. But because it was just so wet, they carried on filling up all the way through the summer, and that’s pretty much unprecedented really in our region. It’s very unusual for that sort of thing to happen. The good news of course is that now we’re in a pretty good position. But I wouldn’t want to give people the impression that water is a resource that we can waste, because even though we might feel like we’ve got lots of it, droughts do begin in winter. You’ll recall that it was two dry winters that got us into the drought situation in the first place. So we do still need I’m afraid an average level of rainfall throughout this winter, and I would still urge everybody to save a bit of money by saving a bit of water.
ANDY HARPER: And are we collecting it as we should? Because with this abundance throughout the summer and the autumn, then it still appears that so much of it goes to waste. I’m not talking about individuals with water butts. My water butts are overflowing.
KIERAN NELSON: I’ll bet.
ANDY HARPER: I hate it now, because I can’t collect the water, because they’re all full. But I’m not talking about us. I’m talking about people such as yourselves. Are there other ways to save it? Because it is a very valuable resource which we could be short of again.
KIERAN NELSON: You’re absolutely right Andy. And we’ve got to do everything we can to capture it wherever it is. So we certainly filled up all of our reservoirs. We spent a lot of extra money over the summer pumping water from the swollen rivers into our reservoirs. So they’re absolutely brim-full. All of our aquifers are brim-full. We’ve also done an awful lot to reduce the amount of water that leaks out of our network. I know that that’s something that your listeners will be interested in, because leakage is understandably quite a contentious issue in a water company conversation. But no, we’ve taken a lot of steps to reduce the amount of leakage. We’re actually at an historic low level now in terms of the amount of water that’s leaked out of our pipes every day. And all of these things will collectively add up to big savings in the long run. And hopefully it will be another twenty years before we have a hosepipe ban, just like it was twenty years before we got to the one we had this summer.
ANDY HARPER: I know it’s probably not fashionable to feel sorry for farmers, but I do a little bit, because of course they had all sorts of obstacles to contend with growing this year’s crop. And then when I was driving to work this morning, I was noticing that fields in areas which aren’t normally under water were holding an awful lot of water. It must be very difficult for them. Do you hear from farmers?
KIERAN NELSON: Well I do know conversationally that they’re having a very difficult time ate the moment, because it has gone from being so dry to being so wet. I think what you can see there is something that we do need to be aware of this coming winter, and that’s the fact that because the ground is so saturated already, even the slightest bit of rain could lead to quite significant flooding. I know the Environment Agency have been warning already about the potential for flooding in this coming winter, purely because of the fact that we’ve had so much rain during the summer. And I suspect farmers are feeling that as well.
ANDY HARPER: Kieran, good to talk to you.