Dry weather updates

Updates on the dry weather and the effects it causes across Wales.

22nd Sep 2022
Rain, but not enough (yet)

Despite recent rainfall all areas of Wales remains at Drought status. All parts of Wales have received some rainfall over the last three weeks, with Wales as a whole receiving 62% of long-term average rainfall for the month so far (by the 20th). This varies considerably from 91.6% in Pembrokeshire to 40.6% on Anglesey. While the recent rain has wetted the surface of the ground, and some of this will have made its way to surface watercourses, a considerable amount of rain will be required before water starts to percolate down through the soils to replenish groundwater levels and flow to rivers. We’ve seen this over the last two weeks with rivers responding to the rainfall and relatively quickly dropping off with the majority of rivers back to levels below normal. Flows which are still ‘exceptionally low’ for the time of year include the Wye (at Redbrook), Ogmore (Bridgend), Ewenny (Keepers Lodge), Valleys rivers, parts of the Dee and Clwyd (Pont y Cambwll).

Groundwater and reservoir levels across Wales also remain low and we will need regular spells of rainfall over the autumn months to really begin to recover. It will therefore take some time before resources fully recover from the drought. We may see some sectors or areas recovering quicker however others will continue to be impacted – public water supplies will take time to fully recover, temporary use bans remain in place, and conditions on abstraction licences to reduce or cease abstracting may continue to be in force for some time into the autumn. It is important that we all continue to consider our water use carefully, using water efficiently and abstractors only abstract the water that they require.

 

 

8 Sep 2022
Drought status extended for the rest of Wales

NRW has extended its declaration of drought status for the rest of Wales.  This means that all areas of Wales are now at drought status.

Between March and August, Wales received just 56.7% of its expected rainfall, the third driest six-month period since records began in 1865 (based on provisional data). The Met Office has also confirmed that this summer has been the eighth warmest for Wales since 1884.  We have seen catchments across North Wales receive between 54.3% (Dee) and 75.4% (Dwyfor) of rainfall expected over the last six months.  

In August alone, Wales received just 38% of its average monthly rainfall. The first few days of September has seen the return of rainfall across Wales.  As of 6 September, Wales had received 34% of the long-term average rainfall for this month so far (ranging from 14.5% in Clwyd to 56.5% in Cleddau catchments).

Despite heavy recent rainfall in parts of North Wales, the eastern catchments have seen less than 20% of its rainfall for September so far.  The river flows in the Clwyd and Dee catchments remain low for the time of year, as does the groundwater levels in this area. Therefore, the recent rainfall has not been sufficient to compensate for the impacts of the prolonged dry weather period over recent months in these parts of Wales. 

We have taken the time to consider the effects of the lack of rainfall over the past six months on our waters and the local environment and there are concerns for the ecosystems and habitats, water supplies, land management and agriculture particularly in the Dee and Clwyd catchments.  The South West, South East and Mid Wales also remain in drought.

Our teams across Wales are closely monitor the situation and deliver our actions in line with  our drought plan. We are reminding people to report any environmental incidents such as rivers running dry or fish in distress to our 24-hour hotline on 0300 065 3000.

1 Sep 2022
Third driest six months on record

Hydrological situation

On the whole August was another dry month with Wales (provisionally) receiving 38.1% of the long-term average (1981 – 2010), this follows what has already been a dry spring and summer. Over the period March to August Wales received 56.7% of the long-term average, this is the third driest period in a record going back to 1865 (1976 and 1984 were drier). For North East Wales the last six months were the second driest on record. This summer has also been warmer and sunnier than average for Wales, with the average temperature being 1°C warmer (eighth warmest summer on record) and sunshine hours at 116%.

Many of our rivers have remained at low levels throughout the summer, especially in South Wales. Some gauging stations have experienced their lowest flows on record, including:

  • Llynfi at Coytrahen, lowest July flows on record (since 1970)
  • The Wye at Redbrook had its lowest July on record, with August flows second lowest on record and similar to 1976
  • The Ebbw at Rhiwderin has seen lowest flows for the months May, June, July and August on record (since 1972)
  • Yscir at Pont ar Yscir lowest recorded June, July and August (since 1972).

Groundwater levels across Wales are continuing to drop (regress) at steady rates. Any rainfall that occurs is having little or no effect on recharging the groundwater. Many of our monitoring sites have dropped below exceptionally low levels for time of year, with those within the Carboniferous limestones dropping below historical minimums (which are normally experienced later in the year September / October).

Our status

We remain at drought status for South West, South East and parts of Mid Wales (Upper Severn).

The rest of Wales remains at 'prolonged dry weather' status. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide regular updates for any further developments.

The impacts and what have we been doing

We continue to receive reports of impacts to the environment, including of dry rivers, algal blooms, water quality issues and pollution incidents which are likely exacerbated by particularly low flows and warmer temperatures. We are responding to these as required.

Given the low flows we are checking that those abstracting water are complying with their licence conditions, many of which restrict how much can be taken during low flow periods. A number of abstractors with restrictions on their licences have already ceased abstracting. We may need to consider introducing further restrictions on spray irrigators who do not have a “hands-off flow” condition should conditions deteriorate.

There are a number of rivers in Wales which we have agreements on how they are operated with the water companies (and Environment Agency on cross-border rivers) to help support their abstractions. We have been working with our partners to ensure that actions are taken in line with these agreements to protect the ecosystems where we can. Rivers we are regulating include the Wye, Dee and Severn (Llyn Clywedog pictured below).

We routinely collect data on the environment to assess the state of our ecosystems (such as through invertebrate sampling and electrofishing) in addition to gauging rivers to understand the hydrological system. We have increased our low flow gaugings at priority sites to improve the accuracy of our data in addition to additional ecological and fisheries sampling to understand the impacts of the low flows. 

We are working closely with the water companies to ensure that they are taking actions in line with their statutory drought plans, including increasing leakage efforts within at-risk zones, optimising their supply network and customer communications. Dŵr Cymru’s Temporary Use Ban (hosepipe ban) remains in force for Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire. We have also received increased reports of private water supplies drying up, especially in South West.

We also continue to regularly engage with the Welsh Government, stakeholders and other regulators to discuss concerns of how the drought is or may people, organisations and the environment across Wales.

Outlook

Within the next few days low pressure systems begin to dominate the forecast again, bringing rain across Wales (especially in the West) over the weekend and into next week. For the longer term the Met Office have indicated that near average rainfall is more likely for September and that over the next three months there is an increased likelihood of wetter than average conditions.

25th Aug 2022

Drought status extended to include South East Wales and Upper Severn

NRW has extended its declaration of Drought status to South East Wales and the Upper Severn catchment*. We are receiving and responding to increased reports of dry rivers, water quality issues (such as reduced dissolved oxygen), distressed fish and impacts on water dependant habitats (as well as increased fires). There is also concern for the agricultural sector both in the short and long-term. Dŵr Cymru currently have a temporary use ban (known as a hosepipe ban) in force in Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire.

As of 23rd August, Wales has received 36% of the long-term average rainfall for August as a whole (ranging from 22.1% in Pembrokeshire to 58% in Ogwen). NRW’s South East Wales drought management area has seen 30.7% of the monthly average rainfall with the Upper Severn receiving 31.1%. Whilst not record breaking in itself this becomes significant when considering the we’ve had five months of consistently below average rainfall and two heatwaves. Additionally much of the rain has been localised and intense, falling on dry soils leading to fast runoff.

The rainfall over the past week has caused some rivers to recovery slightly, although most remain lower than expected for time of year – with some remaining exceptional low including Alyn, Ceiriog, Colwyn, Erch, Wye, Usk and Ebbw.

While North Wales and the rest of Mid Wales remains in prolonged dry weather status, NRW continues to monitor other parts of Wales closely where concerns for low flows and the environment still remain.

*The areas affected in South East and Mid Wales are:

  • Upper Severn
  • Wye
  • Usk
  • Valleys (Taff, Ebbw, Rhymney, Ely)
  • Vale of Glamorgan (Thaw)

18th Aug 2022

We declare drought for parts of Wales

We are continually monitoring our hydrological triggers (such as rainfall and river flows) and the impacts of the dry weather (including on our ecosystems, water supply, agriculture and navigation).

In reviewing all of the latest information and forecasts we have moved into ‘Drought’ status for South West Wales*. Whilst some triggers have been met elsewhere, we consider that the rest of Wales remains at ‘prolonged dry weather’ status.

Our teams continue to closely monitor the situation, respond to incidents and take action as required. We are in regular contact with the Welsh Government, water companies and other stakeholders, including the Environment Agency for cross border issues.

As mentioned previously over the last five months (March - July) we had 61% of average rainfall in Wales, the only other drier periods in the 20th century were 1984 and 1976.

Over the last two weeks we have seen both an additional heatwave and thundery showers, which have caused some localised surface water flooding.

For the month so far we have received 22.8% of the average rainfall for August (ranging from 8.5% in Pembrokeshire to 45.5% in Ogwen). At the beginning of the week rivers across Wales were still exceptionally low for the time of year, including Alyn, Conwy, Clwyd, Taf, Teifi, Ewenny, Wye, Usk and Ebbw. The rainfall over the last couple days caused some rivers to rise, however these are already receding.

We have concerns for the environment, agriculture, navigation and water supply across Wales – as well as increased risk to people’s well-being.

We continue to receive reports of rivers drying out and fish in distress or killed such as Hafes and Afon Dulyn (Dee and Conwy respectively). Some water sources are seeing dissolved oxygen issues due to low flows, such as Afon Rhiw.

Abstraction constraints are also in place across Wales in line with their licences.

We recently carried out fish rescue on the river Ewenny where low flow disappeared down a sink hole, a naturally occurring geological feature. Whilst a natural event a decision was taken to rescue fish stranded in pools, that would have otherwise died, and move them to an area where flows were present.

We have assisted the fire service with several fires over past few days including waste recycling site in Pembrokeshire adjacent to Milford Haven Waterway SSSI / SAC, St David’s, Margam and grassland/ heathland near Newgale.

There are concerns for water supplies, in particular Dŵr Cymru has issued a notice to its customers in Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire where they are implementing a temporary use ban (hosepipe ban) from 19th August in this area. We urge customers to follow the advice of their local water company and to use water wisely. Please look at their websites or Waterwise for water saving advice.

Water companies are responsible for developing a drought plan every five years. During a drought they will take actions to maintain public water supplies, as set out in their plans. As conditions remain dry we expect the companies to utilise their current supplies and reduce demand through water saving campaigns and increased leak fixing.

If conditions remain dry and move into ‘drought’ for an operational area they should look to utilise other sources of water available to them (standby sources) and this is where restrictions may be imposed on use (such as a hosepipe ban). If drought conditions persist for a significant period the next stage is to consider other measures such as drought permits and drought orders and restriction non essential use.

A part of managing demand for water is for companies to reduce their use by their supply system, including through leakage. Ofwat (the economic regulator) set targets for reducing leakage over time with a 15% reduction between 2020 – 2025.

The industry is planning for a 50% reduction by 2050. Whilst a rate of zero leakage is unachievable every litre lost is another which didn’t need to be put into supply from the environment and so we monitor companies figures annually to ensure they meet their targets and expect robust action from them in Wales.

Dry weather can also result in increased leaks due to soil movements and the supply system seeing more demand, so we expect leakage efforts to be targeted during these periods towards at higher risk.

*This affects the following areas

  • North Ceredigion (Rheidol, Aeron, Ystwyth)
  • Teifi
  • Pembrokeshire (Eastern and Western Cleddau)
  • Carmarthen (Tywi and Taf)
  • Swansea and Llanelli (Tawe and Loughor)
  • Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend (Neath, Afan, Ogmore)

5th Aug 2022

Current situation

We are currently in a state of ‘prolonged dry weather’ across Wales, despite some rainfall over the past week.

During July, Wales only received 56% of its expected rainfall, although this wasn’t evenly distributed. More notable however is the series of dry months since February. For the last five months (March - July) we had 61% of average rainfall in Wales, the only other drier periods in the last 100 years were 1984 and 1976.

For most of July, many rivers were notable to exceptional low for the time of year, there have also been reports of some rivers drying up. Some rivers reached their lowest recorded flows for July on record, notably the Ebbw at Rhiwderin and Frogwy at Bodfordd. The recent rainfall has allowed some rivers to recover across parts of Wales.

Over the first four days of August (provisional) the North West received 31.9% of average August rainfall and the South East received 7.9% - this resulted in flood alerts for some catchments in the North. With little rain forecast for the coming week we expect those rivers that have recovered to recede again. Given that recent rainfall hasn’t been evenly distributed, some rivers remain notably to exceptional low for time of year including Clwyd, lower Dee, Usk, Wye and Ebbw.

We have received numerous reports of dry rivers, wildfires, fish mortality, algal blooms, and other water quality issues. There has been reports of a lack of grass and crop growth, as well as water supply issues in the agricultural sector. Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water have announced a Temporary Use Ban (TUB), commonly known as a ‘hosepipe ban’, will come into force for customers in Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire from 19th August. Please check their website for more information the Dŵr Cymru drought page.

Last year in Wales we used the equivalent of 356 Olympic pools of water every day. During dry hot weather demand for water increases putting pressure on our precious resource. We urge people to follow the latest advice from their water companies and to use water wisely. Doing this will help ensure there’s enough water available to meet everyone’s needs and help protect our environment. For advice on this visit your water companies’ websites or Waterwise.

When you are enjoying the outdoors please be mindful that our wildlife and ecosystems are under more stress. Members of the public should report any incidents to our 24/7 hotline on 0300 065 3000.

In addition some areas may be at higher risk of fires. Please take notice of any signage on our land and advice on this issued via social media.

Defining drought

While there are differing levels scales and definitions of drought, all droughts are characterised by some degree of rainfall shortage. Each drought is different with the nature, timing and impacts varying according to location and which sectors are affected. We define three types of drought (which can occur together):

  • Environmental drought – low flows and reduced soil moisture impacting a range of habitats and species. Droughts of this kind can lead to significant long-term impacts if they continue over an extended period.
  • Agricultural drought – lack of water available for irrigation and reduced soil moisture impacting crop yield (and / or quality) and livestock welfare.
  • Water supply – reduced availability of water for public supply through reduced river flows, reservoir storage or groundwater.

Any combination of these also has the potential to impact on the health and well-being of people in addition to environmental and economic impacts.

Part of our job is to monitor the hydrological and ecological situation, monitor and regulate water companies and collect information on the wider impacts of dry weather. Using this we classify droughts into four stages:

  • Normal – Indicators within expected ranges for the time of year, which can include short periods of low flows and reduced water availability
  • Prolonged dry weather – Indicators demonstrate prolonged low river levels and rainfall for time of year, reduced soil moisture, increased reports of impacts to ecosystems, land, water supply or other sectors.
  • Drought – Significant period of low river levels and shortage of rainfall. Significantly impacted ecosystems and pressures on the agricultural sector. High stress on the water supply system with potentially severe restrictions.
  • Recovery from drought – Returning to normal ranges for the time of year. Depending on the severity of the preceding drought there may still be environmental damage, reduced agricultural output or water use restrictions.

Water companies have their own drought plans which are publicly available. Their drought status may also vary. They typically use the stages ‘normal’, ‘developing drought’, ‘drought’ and ‘severe drought’ and will use their own triggers to define their position often linked to their supply position.

Explore more

Newsletter sign up

Sign up to receive monthly updates from Natural Resources Wales