Draft guidelines, which focus on the actions companies should take to maintain water supply and “protect the environment from their operations” during a drought, were updated this month.
The Environment Agency (EA) says it has reviewed the updated draft internally but that it wants like to consult with the organisations and individuals affected by the guidelines.
The regulator is required to formally review and update its drought plan guidance every five years.
According to the guidance, drought plans should have close links with water companies’ Water Resources Management Plans (WRMP) and align with regional water resources plans. WRMPs should also set out what demand and supply options firms will use to secure supplies during droughts of various return periods, types and severities.Water firms must have also appraised and justified those options and selected those that are the best economically, socially and environmentally.
Compared with WRMPs, the agency says the drought plan should be more tactical and set out the actions firms will take to manage supplies in a drought, and include some worked examples.
The planned submission date for all draft drought plans will be January 2021. The EA expects final plans to be published by April 2022.
Droughts are expected to become more frequent in England. The National Drought Group (NDG) said in June that that there is “growing concern” about water supplies, with some parts of the country experiencing below average rainfall since winter 2016.
The consultation, which opened yesterday, runs until 9 September.