Blog / 18.07.22

As temperatures soar, are we heading for a drought?

2 minute Read / Dr. Janina Gray
 
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As temperatures soar, are we heading for a drought? - Wildfish

As we bask or wilt (depending on your view) in this hot weather one thing we can be sure of is the increased likelihood of drought.

Most of England is already classified as seriously water stressed. Estimates suggest there will be a deficit of 4 billion litres of water a day by 2050 if we want secure water supplies and a healthy environment.

Despite this, water resources – or the lack of them – only rise up the public agenda when drought is upon us. 

The master variable 

Flow is, of course, the master variable for rivers. Get the flow right and it can hide a magnitude of sins. Get it wrong, and its very bad news for all river-life, including fish.

Sufficient flows keep the water cooler and oxygenated and wash out excess silts and sediments. Flow also dilutes the chemicals and nutrients entering rivers from the surrounding landscape.

Reduced flow:

  • Increases the build up of silt which can clog up spawning redds and suffocate invertebrates.
  • Increases the concentrations of nutrients which can result in algal blooms and disruption to food-webs.
  • Prevents fish migration and disconnects marginal habitats which provide food and shelter.
  • Causes pollutants in the water to become more concentrated.
  • Raises water temperature.
  • Increases the pressure on freshwater species and reduces their resilience.

We need to ‘control the controllable’s’  

One of the few things I agree with Sir James Bevan (Chief Executive of the Environment Agency) on is his announcement last week is that humanity is closer than ever to catastrophic biodiversity loss.

Surely this should be a wake-up call to all of us that we need to ‘control the controllable’ in our fight to protect the environment.

We cannot control droughts, but we can reduce the pressure we put on rivers and wildlife. We must reduce over-abstraction of rivers and groundwaters through increased infrastructure and tackle water pollution to increase resilience within these environments. Otherwise, freshwater species, already declining quicker than any other, face a very bleak future. 

By: Dr. Janina Gray
Deputy CEO
As temperatures soar, are we heading for a drought? - Wildfish
 
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