Trouble ahead if we fail to cut water use now

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IF we do not reduce water use now, we will suffer along with wildlife, a Suffolk conservationist has warned.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s water for wildlife officer Penny Hemphill, who was involved in consultations for Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman’s Tuesday ‘drought summit’, warned river levels in the county are the lowest she has seen.

“People must value water and save it,” she said. “If it doesn’t rain, it’s going to affect us as well as the wildlife, with higher food prices.

“Water levels are extremely low. Some rivers and ponds have dried out where usually they are recharged at this time of year.”

There are particular concerns for amphibians which move back into ponds to breed now. While many animals move, for example, water voles will go from tributaries to the main rivers, amphibians in isolated ponds are stuck. Though conservation bodies control levels many wetland nature reserves, that depends on water being available.

The RSPB says springs on its Titchwell reserve in Norfolk are starting to slow down.

The Country Land and Business Association called for farmers to be given ‘a fairer allocation of water’. Its president, Harry Cotterell, said: “The Government needs to think about extending permitted development rights to build on-farm reservoirs. This could make a real difference during any drought.

“Our members in the Eastern region are seriously concerned about the potential for drought.”

Anglian Water said the region had experienced an exceptionally dry 18 months. Problems are worst in the west, which depends on the River Nene, but a spokesman warned there could be trouble for Suffolk which relies on underground sources.

“Ground water levels are low,” he said. “At the moment they’re still operating normally, but they’re not recharging. People need to recognise it is an exceptional situation and adapt their use of water accordingly.”