Have you looked at the Wellsprings lately? For this time of year, the flow from the pond is extremely low, about one twentieth of normal, perhaps as little as one litre per second. How lucky that we do not to have to use the Wellsprings for the village water supply! The Wellsprings relies on water draining from the Chalk under Green Hill where the water table must be must be extremely low. Of course the rainfall amounts recorded in 2010 and 2011 by Angus Dart at Sherwood Farm and by Rosemary Greasby at Highlands Farm have been well below the long term average of 581.9mm. Angusís total reached only 439.4mm for 2011 about 75% of the average. Rosemary recorded 35.3mm in January and18.1 in February, while the prospects for above average rainfall in March look bleak. Should the rainfall for the months from April to September be about average (some 50mm per month) or below, this summer will see a serious drought of the severity of 1976 or worse. This is because of the existing soil moisture deficit of about 30mm and because evaporation during the summer months exceeds the rainfall by some 150mm. Hosepipes are banned from 4 April so that gardeners will have a difficult summer unless there are a number of cloudbursts.
The water supplied to our village and much of south Oxfordshire by Thames Water comes from boreholes at Goring and should be adequate. Currently Farmoor Reservoir is nearly full as are Londonís reservoirs, but others in the south and east of England are less than half full, while water levels in wells and bore holes used are exceptionally low. Flows in most English rivers southwards from the Trent are also exceptionally low. By way of contrast, river flows in northern England, north Wales and Scotland are very high. This always raises questions when a drought is in prospect about transferring water from the wetter parts of the country to the drier part through a water grid. But large scale water transfers are ruled out by the costs―the cost of building large pipelines and the cost of electricity for pumping.
The media become very excited when water shortages hit the headlines. For the remainder of the time water resources are a forgotten topic. That South East England is the driest part of the UK is ignored and that, in terms of available water per head of population, the South East is in the same rank as Tunisia. Successive Governments do not appear to seriously consider lack of water is a limit to growth in South East England. They believe that reducing the demand for water will allow more houses to be built and more people crammed into one of the most densely populated parts of Western Europe. Compulsory metering for households, reducing leakage, household devices which use less water, desalination and other measures are advocated to solve this problem. But new houses have more bathrooms with power showers, more washing machines and automatic sprinkler systems for garden watering. And for the future, climate change threatens with less rainfall and hotter summers, pointing to even more stress on the resource. A reservoir 6.7km2 in area near Abingdon was mooted recently by Thames Water but fortunately it was turned down at a public enquiry. Thames Water were asked to look at other options. One possibility is a limited transfer of water into the Upper Thames from the lower Severn to augment flows in the Thames, perhaps through the Sapperton Canal. This seems to be a cheaper and less disruptive solution environmentally. However the dilemma remains-----how can South East Englandís water resources be sustained?
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