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Are Droughts Getting Worse In England?

February 15, 2012

By Paul Homewood




It seems we are having a bit of a dry winter in England and the warnings are already starting about water shortages this summer! No doubt this will be blamed on global warming (despite that the fact that DEFRA have already forecast this will bring wetter winters!). But is there any evidence droughts are getting worse?


In 2011, as the above map shows, the Midlands were most affected by lack of rain, but how did the year compare to previous years?




There was less rainfall in both 1964 and 1975 and the long term trend is actually rising slightly.

It seems the English climate is as unpredictable as ever.

  1. A. C. Osborn permalink
    February 15, 2012 3:44 pm

    Paul you are doing good work in the vein of Steve Goddard, I like it, debunking the Alarmists with their own data.

  2. February 16, 2012 10:42 am

    The reason for the water shortages (not drought, that’s a lack of rain) is the privatisation of the Water Boards by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. As soon as profit became the driver, within months the new companies cut back on costs. The biggest cost was wages, so thousands of employees were given the order of the boot. Unfortunately it was the workers and not the management who did all the work. The result was that maintenance dramatically reduced. Not only did ageing and leaking mains go unrepaired, but (more importantly) hillside catchment channels were left to clog with debris. The result was a dramatic loss of catchment – surface runoff drained away into streams and rivers instead of reservoirs. Less water captured, and an increasing fraction of that leaking away, a real “recipe for success”. A number of concerned or irritated bodies, like National Park authorities and farmers who had to improve drainage to remove the inevitable but unwanted runoff onto their land, complained, but were ignored.

    “Lower rainfall” is an excuse, not a reason for hosepipe bans.

    • Robert Dammers permalink
      February 16, 2012 3:46 pm

      I think that the claim about reduced maintenance is simply not true. SW Water, for example, which was excoriated on performance, was busy in the mid ’90s with a massive programme of leak reduction (I discovered this while talking with the consultants they were using to improve leak detection). The problem they had was that the under-investment during state ownership was so massive that their pipes were sieves – and they had no way of know where the leaks were, or how bad they were. Replacing pipe-work on that scale is a massive undertaking, so for a long time it appeared they were making no difference.

      • February 16, 2012 7:39 pm

        I think my memory’s better than yours. Unfortunately that period was pre-internet, so there’s no easily searchable archive. Even the right-wing press produced scathing reports on the backlog of repair and replacement work that was building rapidly. In some cases, roads were oozing water for months before anything was dome. If I remember right, the regulator started getting tough about the situation. One authority was losing 5% of its water through leaks. Even if you’re right about the backlog developing before privatisation, they couldn’t reduce it with fewer workers, and their workforce reduction is a matter of record.

      • February 16, 2012 10:47 pm

        I think you are both right! I remember a lot of talk about “victorian” water and sewage systems around that time. Since much of the water system had been laid down a hundred years before, a lot needed replacing come privatisation.

        That was one of the reasons Maggie got shot of them. The private companies of course took on obligations, then tried to wriggle out of them.

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