Having a strategy for beating water shortages in the event of a drought or lower rainfall in the UK may seem like a wasted effort. Ask almost anyone, and you'll be told that it rains here nearly every day. If we get two nice days, then you can bet a thunderstorm will be on the horizon.
The UK’s average rainfall in 2015, for example, was just over 129 cms, about 51 inches, and that figure is actually about 12% higher than normal. Not only that, but that average overlooks the wide range of values that exists between regions.
Snowdonia in Wales, for example, is the wettest, with approximately 300 cms (118 inches) per year, while southeast Essex is generally the driest with less than 51cms (20 inches) annually. Yet, even these quantities cannot be predicted with certainty.
Some years we get a lot more and, in others, less.
In 2016, for example, numerous thunderstorms moved up from the Continent and delivered torrential rain to a normally dry Essex. Summer in the UK never materialized, as the sub-tropical jet stream remained south of us. In other words, we experienced wintertime weather patterns in the summer. This is disappointing, though not unprecedented.
During the past several years, rainfall overall has increased across the country. Generally, the winters have been drier; but the summers have more than made up for them. According to the Met Office, Britain averaged 130 cms in 2008, 133 in 2012, and 130 in 2014.
Most years it seems as if we wait a long time for the weather to turn nice, and maybe we do; but you may be surprised to learn that there has been a heatwave in this country every year since 2009. They may not have lasted for weeks on end, as it did in 1976, but they have still caught by surprise. It's almost as though we have to resign ourselves to having a summer before one actually arrives, and then we get a month when it seems too hot to do anything.
Meanwhile, there is no rain. The grass turns brown within a few days and extra watering is required; and if there are no water storage tanks on which to draw, you notice the extra demands in your bill. Instead of beating the water shortage, you'l be beaten by it.
At the other extreme are droughts. The UK experiences one about every five to ten years. You don’t have to go very far back to be reminded of what they can be like. The last one began in the winter of 2009/2010 and didn't finish until March 2012. Hosepipe bans began even after the drought subsided because water levels had fallen so much.
Water levels in reservoirs are reduced and hose pipe bans are introduced. In the severest instances, these bans can extend to you; not just your customers.
Droughts normally occur in the summer when temperatures are the warmest, as it did in 2003 when temperatures exceed 38° C / 101° F.
The one from 2010 to 2012 was among the ten worst to have occurred in the past 100 years. Despite the heavy rainfall towards the end, it was insufficient to raise groundwater levels, and the threat of bans remained in place.
Bans did occur with the drought in 2006 and during the infamous one that took place from 1975-1976. It was estimated to have cost £3,500 million worth of crops to fail. Some are even discussing the possibility of creating large desalination plants here.
Something to think about
It’s likely that the pendulum will soon swing the other way towards more droughts before long, especially if average temperatures rise as they are predicted to.
Remember Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Warm air can hold more moisture than dry air.
An extended period of wet years is bound to be followed by a number of dry ones. Will you be ready?
Beating water shortages
All of this points to the need for you to have your own water storage facilities. They will enable you to accumulate more than you need during the wetter periods so that you have enough to carry you through the dryer ones.
Think of them as a way to save for a rainy day.