Drought is getting worse—and we need to protect our rivers before it’s too late.
Although drought occurs naturally as a result of low rainfall and high temperatures, climate change and population growth have placed an unbearable strain on freshwater. Water is being drained from rivers at an unsustainable rate. When water levels drop, the concentration of pollutants increases, harming flora and fauna; fish are prevented from following their natural migration routes; and ecosystems fail to function.
Many people don’t believe that the UK could experience drought; after all, we’re known for our rain! However, it only takes a few sunny days to dry our rivers to the point that they virtually disappear. The constant pressure from abstraction means that many of our rivers are very fragile, and do not have the resilience to thrive without rainfall.
At The Rivers Trust, we are incredibly concerned about the low level of water in many rivers across the UK. Barry Bendall, Director of Water and Land, sums up our position well: “We would like to see a longer-term, more sustainable, multi-sector approach to managing our water resources with greater emphasis on building resilience within river catchments. If we could do this and reduce water consumption before river levels and water quality reach a critical state, we could limit the impact on fish, wildlife and the people enjoying the rivers during these dry weather periods”.
Until legislation preventing unsustainable abstraction is introduced, we need to take matters into our own hands. If we all make changes to water use in our daily life—particularly over the summer—we could significantly reduce the amount of water withdrawn from our rivers. In addition, working to improve the health of our rivers in advance of periods of drought can help to buffer them against the damage caused by periods of drought.
Donate or find out more about volunteering with local Rivers Trusts using the buttons below. Your donations will fund vital conservation work, helping to build resilience in our rivers and preserve them for generations to come.
#WaterIsLife – so let’s protect ours before it’s too late.
How Does Drought Impact our Rivers?
You might think that your personal water use is unrelated to river levels, but that isn’t the case! Water companies often abstract water directly from rivers. This water is treated, then used in our homes and businesses. If we use less water, we could reduce the amount withdrawn from our rivers.
When water is abstracted from rivers, it can have dire consequences. Water levels can drop to a point where fish can’t find sufficient water coverage, leading to suffocation. It can also prevent certain species of fish from migrating, which can completely disrupt important stages of their lifecycle.
Unfortunately, many rivers contain pollutants as a result of agriculture, industry and household waste. When water levels drop, the concentration of these pollutants increases—often to a higher level than wildlife and plants can tolerate. Drought also decreases the concentration of oxygen in the water, which again spells disaster for flora and fauna.
We are lucky enough to have clean, running water in our homes—but wildlife doesn’t have this luxury! Many rely on rivers for their water intake, so when rivers dry up, it can cause wildlife to die as a result of dehydration.
Reducing Your Water Footprint to Prevent Drought
You’ve probably heard of carbon footprints, but water footprints are just as important!
A water footprint can be calculated for a particular product, service or person—or it can be for something as large as a country! Water footprints take into account all of the water which is required by a particular entity.
Our water footprints are determined by the products we purchase, the services we use and the way we live. By altering our habits, we can massively reduce our water footprint. Diet is particularly important; a meat-based diet uses 3600 litres of water each day, whereas a vegetarian diet uses relatively less at 2300 litres.
Being more mindful about your household water consumption can also make a difference to your water footprint. Simple measures like fixing leaks can have a huge impact; just one leaky tap can waste 2,802 gallons of water each year!
Our Top Tips For Saving Water
Need some tips on saving water around your home and garden? Look no further! With our tips, you can massively reduce your water footprint while only making minimal changes to your daily life. Feel free to save and share these graphics – just click the download button underneath.
What are Rivers Trusts Doing About Drought?
– Through our Water Stewardship programme, Rivers Trusts are working with businesses and their supply chains to sustainably improve water management.
– Earlier this year, we joined 12 organisations to call for the Government and Water Companies to introduce hosepipe bans and other water restrictions immediately to avert fish kills and longer-term environmental damage.
– Westcountry and South East Rivers Trust are part of the ProWater project – working with European partners to protect and restore raw water sources through actions at the landscape scale. Examples of this are forest conversion, natural water retention or restoration of soil compaction.