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England-wide hosepipe ban ‘should be imposed to protect rivers and wildlife’

Parts of Potteric Carr, Yorkshire, have dried up (Jim Horsfall/Wildlife Trusts/PA)
Parts of Potteric Carr, Yorkshire, have dried up (Jim Horsfall/Wildlife Trusts/PA)

Water company bosses are being urged to impose a England-wide hosepipe ban to avoid the worst effects of drought on rivers and wildlife.

Conservationists said action to reduce water use and pollution is needed to help the natural world, which has been hit by months of little rainfall combined with heatwaves.

The extreme conditions have left landscapes parched with wildfires breaking out at wildlife-rich nature reserves and aquatic nature endangered by concentrated levels of pollutants in low-flowing rivers, the Wildlife Trusts said.

Peatlands in some areas are exceptionally dry making them more prone to wildfire, ponds, scrapes and streams are drying up hitting wildlife such as dragonflies, and badgers are struggling to reach earthworms in the dry soil.

Chalk streams, an important habitat for creatures including otters, water voles and kingfishers, are very low across Hertfordshire and other parts of southern England, the federation of independent nature charities warned.

The Wildlife Trusts are calling for the Government to set a fixed target under the Environment Act in England for reducing water use and require the installation of meters to ensure there is enough water in rivers for wildlife and people.

They also want to see a crackdown on pollution, including investigations and penalties for illegal sewage discharges, enforcing rules to protect rivers from agricultural run-off and ensuring new developments help to reduce the problem.

Ambitious farming support schemes need to be brought forward to help landowners reduce water pollution, tackle soil erosion and restore hedgerows and wetlands – including releasing beavers to manage water in the landscape, the organisations say.

The Wildlife Trusts also called for a country-wide hosepipe ban in England, and for water companies to invest in water storage, tackle leaks and improve efficiency.

Huxterwell Marsh at Potteric Carr nature reserve near completely dry (Jim Horsfall/Widllife Trusts/PA)
Huxterwell Marsh at Potteric Carr nature reserve is nearly completely dry (Jim Horsfall/Widllife Trusts/PA)

Ali Morse, water policy manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Nature is really struggling with extreme weather, and we need to act now to ensure our parched landscapes and rivers – the natural environment that provides us with food and water – are more resilient in the future.

“It is critical to create more space for nature to keep land from drying out and give support to landowners for projects, such as beaver releases, that help ecosystems to recover.

“Water bosses should unite and impose a country-wide hosepipe ban to reduce non-essential use and avoid the worst impacts of drought on rivers and wildlife, rather than relying on more damaging measures later.

“Water companies must also invest in water storage infrastructure, tackle leaks, and improve water efficiency – it’s a scandal that so much water is wasted every day.

“Government must ensure that new homes are water-efficient and bring in universal water metering to help all customers limit their water use.”

Measures are needed to help nature cope with drought, fire and flooding in the UK as part of efforts to adapt to climate change, including funding for land managers to help regulate water flows, the Wildlife Trusts added.