Flooding in a Drought

Saturday 1473 – 5th May 2012

I watched the FA cup final today with my son and was going to write about what a great victory Liverpool had over Chelsea but I’ve changed my mind… largely because they didn’t have any sort of victory over Chelsea let alone a great one !!!

So instead I’m going to write about (and show you a couple of photos of ) flooded Cambridgeshire in the middle of a drought and when there’s a hosepipe ban in most of the South East of England !!  If you think that doesn’t make sense read on.. ..

The last 18 months ( before April that is) have been the driest in East Anglia for 100 years. Apparently in a good year we only get 2/3rds of the average rain the rest of the UK gets. In 2011 we only got 2/3rds of 2/3rds if you get my drift! It’s serious in this region because we grow so many of the nations crops, for example a third of the nations potatoes.

Ironically a hose pipe ban was introduced by Anglian water on the 5th April and it hasn’t stopped raining since. April has been the wettest on record and there are floods everywhere. I wouldn’t want to be wading out to sit on these benches would you??

Heres a bit from Anglian Waters website where they explain why all this flooding has less of an impact on the “hidden drought” than we imagine it should –

“unfortunately, it’s not going to make much of a dent on underground water levels unless it persists for many more weeks, possibly months.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to refill our reservoirs, and some of them are recovering quite well. But the challenge we have is that they are starting from a very low level, following so many months of below average rainfall.

“Our aquifers – the water stores that you cannot see – are also starting from a very low level. The difficulty we have is that they take longer to be affected by rainfall, and that’s why these downpours won’t fundamentally change the situation.”

What happens to the rain?

  • At this time of year, a lot of rainfall is absorbed by growing trees and plants. When the weather gets warmer, much is also lost to evaporation.
  • The ground is very hard, because of the lack of rain over the last two years. This means that it takes longer for water to soak into the ground, with more water ‘running off’ into drains, rivers, and streams.
  • Once the soil does start to absorb the water, it acts like a dry sponge, recharging itself. Only once this ‘sponge’ is saturated can excess water start to make its way into aquifers.
  • Anglian Water captures a lot of the rain that flows into the rivers, and pumps it into reservoirs. Most of these have recovered well following the recent rainfall – but reservoirs only supply half of the drinking water we need in our region.

Ciaran continued: “We’ve got to be careful not to let the recent rainfall mask the ‘hidden drought’ that still exists in our groundwater stores. These aquifers are still notably low. It takes longer for them to be affected by drought, but it also takes longer for them to recover when it rains – many months, in some cases.”

But it’s not as straightforward as that. Anglian water admits on it’s website to leakage of 

“around six cubic metres per kilometre of pipe in our network. That’s compared to an industry average of just under 11 cubic metres”

and goes on to say that it will spend £14 million on tackling leakage. Their profits reported in June 2011 were said to be £709 million. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions!!!

I’m sure they’re not alone in either leakage or profit !   An article in The Independent as long ago as July 2010 stated that “3,300,000,000 litres are lost every single day through leakage”  

Yes that does say EVERY SINGLE DAY ! and I doubt that has improved enormously. if you’ve got time have a read as it goes on to say that water companies are restricted by the regulator Ofwat who dictates how much they can spend on leaks! Surely that can’t be right?? If it is the world has indeed gone mad!

My own personal water supply actually comes from Cambridge Water rather than Anglian water and 97% of the water supplied by them comes from underground aquifers but maybe because of better management of leaks?? we don’t actually have a “Temporary Usage Ban” as they call it though I don’t think it likely that anyone is going to be using a hosepipe for some time anyway !! 

Oh and this is what happens if you rely too much on your SatNav – There is a road under this car which is beside a pub where I had lunch with a friend of mine. The person who was driving it was apparently following their SatNav to get to the Pub – there are 2 roads and this is the wrong one !!!

SatNav users beware!


What’s happening in your region weather wise?  Are you having extremes of weather too?  I’d be interested to hear your stories.


Goodbye from Saturday Girl until next week or join me every day on my other blog Helen’s Photomania here   where you’ll find lots more photos.



23 comments on “Flooding in a Drought

  1. Tilly Bud says:

    Lots of rain, as usual, because this is Stockport. If the ground was hard I never noticed. I walk the dogs in mud, most days.

    A lot of it is mios-management and being too cheap to fix leaks, I’m convinced.

    My Dad was at school with a semi-famous Liverpool player but I can’t remember his name and Dad’s dead so I can’t ask him. Laurieanichols, who follows my blog, grew up in France and lives in America, told me yesterday that her grandfather was William H. Jones, who played for Liverpool in the 1940s.

  2. Adrian Lewis says:

    Very much agree about the water companies – and I like the top picture a lot! Adrian

    • Helen Cherry says:

      I thought you’d like that top one Adrian.. thanks for commenting.. I’ve been missing you on photomania!

      • Adrian Lewis says:

        Missing me? Well you’d better improve your aim then …

        Apologies for lateness etc, but its always a battle between putting pics out on my blog and wading into the emails – I’m usually about 100 in arrears!

        I do hope you’re doing ok and feeling better. Take care! Adrian

      • Helen Cherry says:

        Sorry I do understand the battle to keep up with comments and post.. I noted that you were commenting about a week after I’d posted!
        Slowly slowly getting there I think… taking much longer than I thought it would Adrian..

      • Adrian Lewis says:

        Well its probably not just a case of bouncing back – take it easy, relax and give yourself time. A

  3. And yet people still deny that global climate change is real and that it has been causing a widespread increase in unpredictable and severe weather incidents.

    Stunning photos as usual, Helen, and well-written post overall. Very informative!

  4. It does seem very weird that you can have a drought in England. Or floods, come to that.I thought we in Australia were the land of droughts and floods, and the UK just had gentle rain the whole year round. Shows how much I know!

    • Helen Cherry says:

      and I always think of Australia being hot and sunny all the time.. though I know that isn’t true 🙂 We get all sorts here. Sun, rain, wind, hail, snow and sometimes all in the one day!.. thanks for visiting and commenting 🙂 BiB

  5. ~mimo~ says:

    Great photojournalism, and what a strange situation with the waters.

  6. Marleen says:

    In Cavan, Ireland, it has been reasonable dry for the past few weeks but too cold and still is; nothing is growing,not even the weeds, which is a comfort in one way but could become a problem for farmers and their silage. And my veggies are way behind as well but I ‘m not depending on them for my livelyhood, so that ‘s not the end of the world.

  7. scillagrace says:

    I predict a common theme arising in our blogs. Saw a news article about some tourist in Australia who followed their GPS device onto a beach and right into the ocean. Makes you wonder why we are so programmed to trust technology instead of common sense!

  8. Rachael says:

    An interesting and balanced post on a touchy subject. Well done! We have a hosepipe ban here (Three Valleys Water) in Surrey. You make a very good point indeed about leaks and we could add to it the number of reservoirs that in the last few decades have been filled in and built on. Another example of putting shareholders above consumers.

  9. Caroline Warnes says:

    Love the bridge picture. I wonder was the water that high while the guy in the car was following his sat-nav?! You are right, it is very odd that we can have floods and still be in a severe drought. If we can pipe water out of aquifers, why can’t we pipe it back in when there is lots of rain I wonder??.

    • Helen Cherry says:

      I don’t know the answer to that Caroline except if the water wasn’t high he/she would just have driven out again wouldn’t they?
      very good point about the piping water in and out of aquifers…

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