WEEKS of dry weather has led to an official drought status being declared in Lincolnshire.
Now, Gainsborough’s farmers say they are suffering and residents are being urged to be responsible with the water they use.
Defra and the Environment Agency made the announcement as a result of the driest spring since records began in 1910. Low water levels in rivers and very dry soil has caused great concern in Lincolnshire, as levels are also generally falling in the rest of the East of England.
Dennis Summers from Hall Farm in Somerby near Gainsborough said that the dry spell has had a very damaging effect on his crops and he now expects his yield to be down by up to a quarter.
“It’s effected the grass considerably,” he said. “We’re down quite a lot in terms of sileage and it’s had an impact on the grazing of the cattle and sheep as well as the crops and flowers.”
He continued: “We won’t really be sure of the dry weather’s full impact on the crops until we get the combine harvester out, but there’s no doubt that it will effect my yield – I think it will be down by about 25 per cent, which is quite a lot.”
Similarly, Steve Ward from Uncle Henry’s Farm in Grayingham near Gainsborough said that they had only had five inches of rain since January – less than half than normal.
“The last serious rain we had before last weekend was in February, so all of the Spring crops have suffered,” he said.
“The winter crops have suffered too because they haven’t tillered, which means they’re producing single stems rather than shoots. Overall, there’s been massive reductions in growth. I think our yields will be down by up to 30 per cent. The loss would be thousands of pounds.”
He added: “Our biggest fear is that we’ll end up with a wet harvest which would add to fuel costs for drying the drops. We also have an irrigation licence, but there’s a concern that we may have to reduce to amount of water we’re able to use which would reduce yields more. This could all have an impact on food prices.”
Planning manager at the Environment Agency, Graham Wilson said: “What happens next is very dependent on the weather. Normal summer rain will reduce the rate at which rivers are falling and will help farmers and the environment especially, but if this is followed by a dry winter, there could be far more serious problems next year.”
He continued: “Our job is to balance the needs of people, the environment, agriculture and industry so that there is enough water to go round. We all have a part to play in making the best efficient use of the water we have and even small changes can make a big difference.”
He added: “What would really help are several weeks of steady rain, even though this is never popular in the summer.”
Water companies are not currently expecting to restrict domestic water supplies this summer, but are asking their customers to use water wisely.
Ciaran Nelson from Anglian Water said: “Our water supplies are secure for this summer, much as we’ve been suggesting for several weeks now.”
He continued: “But the announcement is still important, as it serves as a very timely reminder of just how valuable water is and how we must all do what we can to avoid wasting it.”
“Our reservoirs are currently a little less than 90 per cent full, which is exactly where we’d expect it to be at this time of year, and because our underground aquifers are similarly healthy, we don’t envisage introducing any restrictions this year.”
Ciaran added: “It’s now 20 years since we had a hosepipe ban in the Anglian Water region, and we don’t see that changing this summer.”
“Nevertheless, we’d always advise people to conserve water. This kind of prolonged dry weather serves as a reminder that water is a precious commodity we often take for granted.”