Drought order sought for Yorkshire reservoir after 'exceptional shortage of rain'

The Environment Agency has applied a drought order for a Yorkshire reservoir following "an exceptional shortage of rain", it has been announced.

The agency submitted an application to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs yesterday which it wants to be imposed for Holme Styes Reservoir at Hade Edge, Holmfirth.

If granted, the order will mean that the Environment Agency can ask Yorkshire Water to slow the flow of water leaving the reservoir and manage habitats and river flows to protect wildlife.

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The Environment Agency said the order "will have no impact on the public water supply as the Holme Styes Reservoir is a historic mill reservoir and not part of the public water infrastructure".

A drought order has been applied for by the Envrironment Agency in YorkshireA drought order has been applied for by the Envrironment Agency in Yorkshire
A drought order has been applied for by the Envrironment Agency in Yorkshire

Drought orders apply when there is serious threat to plants or animals that are dependent on a body of water.

Defra is due to make a decision within the next 28 days and if granted, the order could initially apply for up to six months and be extended for a further six after that. It is up to Environment Secretary George Eustice to grant the order.

Victoria Slingsby, environment planning and engagement manager for the Environment Agency in Yorkshire, said: "The drought order request we have submitted for the Holme Styes Reservoir demonstrates one way we can act to protect wildlife in our region. Without it, the reservoir could run dry and plants and animals that rely on it would die.

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“We’re looking at the impacts of dry weather across the region to make sure we can act to preserve water for wildlife and people as we experience extreme weather conditions.

“We can all do our part to use water wisely and manage this precious resource. For example using a trigger nozzle on your garden hose could save water, even better use a watering can instead of a hose.”

The Environment Agency said action is required as Yorkshire experiences prolonged dry weather.

A spokesperson said: "Following a dry spring, river flows and some groundwater levels are below normal in parts of the region.

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"Prolonged dry weather is a natural event which has become more likely with climate change. It occurs as a result of low rainfall for an extended period of time. Once prolonged dry weather is declared, actions are taken to minimise impacts on the environment.

"The Environment Agency has been reviewing groundwater levels, river flows and soil conditions. Teams are also responding to reports of low dissolved oxygen levels in watercourses to help protect fish populations."

Yorkshire has not declared drought since autumn 2018 but did move to prolonged dry weather status in June 2020.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: "We’re working with the Environment Agency on their application for a drought order to change the flows on Holme Styes reservoir. This reservoir is a compensation reservoir, which means it is not used for supplying water to customers, but is instead used to provide flows downstream into the local watercourse. We’re supporting by carrying out environmental assessment surveys before and after any flows are changed to keep a check on local wildlife."

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