Irrigation prospects for 2019 downgraded by The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has downgraded irrigation prospects for the 2019 season due to lower than average rainfall and available weather forecasts.

Prospects in East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire are now rated ‘poor’ meaning growers were likely to face restrictions on abstraction for irrigation during the growing season due to low water levels.

Many other areas are assessed as having ‘moderate’ status meaning controls may be placed on surface water abstraction if hot and dry conditions prevail in summer.

Full detail on the EA’s assessments for each area can be found in the May 2019 prospects for irrigation on ahdb.org.uk/weather.

AHDB’s Water Resources Management expert Nicola Dunn, said: “The current outlook is for a difficult irrigation season due to lower than average rainfall over the winter months following last year’s drought.

“The wet weather in March was not enough to make up for the lack of recover in groundwater and river flows have also been declining due to recent dry weather.

“While some wet weather over the summer is always a possibility, the EA’s prospects suggest that frequent restrictions on abstraction are likely, especially in key growing areas in the East.”

Paul Hammett, NFU’s water specialist said farmers and growers were bracing themselves for a
challenging summer.

He urged farmers to consider how they could be affected by running out of water and to make plans, where possible, to manage water shortages.

AHDB top tips for water savvy farming

  • Ensure water is applied as efficiently as possible to make it last the season
  • Re-assess your irrigation strategy based on crop value and contracts against likely water available
  • Check pipes and equipment to ensure water is not leaked and lost
  • Utilise available storage capacity and apply to the EA to fill reservoirs out of season in the event that some abstraction is possible
  • Trade water with neighbours (see EA water rights trading mapfor East Anglia, Midlands and Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire)
  • Consider alternative sources of water that are available for use in an emergency (e.g. boreholes, mains water, tankered water)

This article was originally published by our sister publication Farmers Guardian