United Utilities have been issued with drought permits to allow the company to take water from Lancashire reservoirs.
The permit from the Environment Agency (EA), issued today, allows the company to take supplies from Windermere and Scales boreholes in Cumbria and Delph and Rivington reservoirs in Lancashire should they be needed later in the year.
As set out in its drought plan, United Utilities are required to introduce a hosepipe ban if the drought permits are used before the end of September.
It comes as recent rainfall has seen North West have water levels slightly improved.
But despite this temporary respite, the region has only received around half of the rainfall normally expected during May to July - some 132mm of rain which is 56 per cent of the long term average.
Current forecasts also suggest there may be continued lower than average rainfall into autumn.
Jim Ratcliffe, EA Drought Manager, said: “The Environment Agency uses regulatory powers to manage water availability to maintain essential supplies for people and the environment and will always balance the needs of the public, industry, farmers and the environment.
“As the dry weather is set to continue in to autumn, there could still be restrictions later in the summer so we continue to urge everyone to use water wisely. Our staff will continue to manage demand by working with farmers, businesses and others who abstract water.
“We continue to work with water companies across the country to ensure they are following robust drought plans.”
The drought permits for Delph reservoir, in Egerton and Rivington reservoir near Chorley will allow United Utilities to reduce the ‘compensation flow’ they have a legal requirement to release downstream.
This will allow more water will be kept in the reservoirs for public water supplies. This means river flows downstream may be reduced, which reflects that of other natural streams in the area during a period of dry weather. Great care is taken to ensure any reduction in river flows will not cause harm to the downstream environment.
The drought permit for Windermere enables United Utilities to take additional water from the lake but only at times when flows are high enough to protect both levels in the lake for tourism and recreation uses, and the wildlife in the River Leven.
This water is needed to support the recovery of storage in Haweswater - a key source of drinking water for the people of the North West. The water resources situation could also improve if demand for water reduces or if enough rain returns to replenish supplies.
Nigel Wilkinson, Managing Director, Windermere Lake Cruises Limited: “The permit for Windermere allows United Utilities to abstract additional water from the lake, however, we don’t expect this to make any visible difference to the level of Windermere so people will just see business as usual.”