Farmers anxious as drought concerns increase

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DROUGHT is threatening to become an issue in parts of Yorkshire this summer – at least for farmers.

An Environment Agency update on the problem yesterday mentioned “south east Yorkshire” among areas which “continued to be affected by dry weather” and Russell Toothill, a farmer and NFU representative at Auckley, near the Bessacarr edge of Doncaster, confirmed to the Yorkshire Post that there was concern in his area.

He said: “I normally have to pump out ditches in winter but the pumps have never been out of the shed and now I am ploughing in conditions which are perfect too early.”

Yorkshire Water said it had good average reservoir levels and an underground network for redistributing water as necessary.

But a spokesman admitted that while the company was confident about meeting tap demand, it could not guarantee there would be no restrictions on farmers drawing irrigation water from rivers or boreholes.

Laurie Norris, environmental specialist in the NFU regional office at York, said farmers in the county of East Yorkshire, north of the Humber, as well as in south east Yorkshire, were reporting concerns.

The Yorkshire Water spokesman said: “We are monitoring the situation in both areas.”

Root crops such as carrots and potatoes need a lot of water, and many growers will want to irrigate if they are short of rainfall.

The Environment Agency yesterday updated its list of areas in a “state of drought” – a definition it bases on “various indicators”, including reports from the water companies.

The list started with most of East Anglia and now includes Hampshire, East and West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Berkshire, London, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and east Gloucestershire.

A spokeswoman said: “We don’t expect any impact on the public water supply in Yorkshire.

“However many parts of the region have experienced prolonged dry weather which could impact on some abstractors in agricultural areas.”

Severn Trent Water supplies some Yorkshire customers on the borders of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. It does not anticipate restrictions but “the situation remains under review”.