Soggy old Britain is facing the prospect of mega-drought. Even at the height of winter, aquifers are being used to keep English rivers and lakes from running dry.
Andrew Chapman, a senior environment planning officer with the agency warns, '...the position is becoming very serious. In simple terms, unless we get a downpour that lasts for several weeks in the very near future, we are in trouble. There could be severe water shortages in many parts of the country.' Worst affected areas would include the Midlands, East Anglia and the south-east of England, say agency officials.
...The impending water crisis is particularly worrying for farmers. At this time of year, many build storage lagoons to hold water that they can use later in the year to irrigate crops. But to be allowed to dam up water that would otherwise flow into rivers, farmers have to be given permits by the Environment Agency
So far this year, 345 applications for such stores have had restrictions placed on them by the agency, limiting the powers of farmers to provide water for their crops during the forthcoming growing season.
"We are facing drastic reductions in yield," said Andrew Nottage, who runs the Russell Smith farm at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. Among the crops grown by Nottage are potatoes and onions – vegetables that have a high demand for water. "We can switch crops to less water-intensive types, but there is a problem doing that," he said. "Farmers are locked into long-term contracts with supermarkets to provide them with the vegetables they want to provide for the British public later in the year.
"It is therefore difficult to switch crops even if you know that you are going to be in trouble when it comes to supplying water for them."
The problem for Britain is that East Anglia is one of the nation's principal food-producing regions. It is also the driest in the country. "Rainfall patterns here are similar to Israel," said Nottage. "That makes farming a tricky business some years."