Common darter dragonfly pwechd on vegetation against a blue sky

Dry conditions could have long-term impact on wildlife

As Yorkshire Water announce a hosepipe ban from 26th August, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust are urging people to consider the impacts of the drought on wildlife and start using water wisely now.

Before resorting to a hosepipe ban, water companies will try a number of things to protect drinking water supplies under special licences from the Environment Agency. They may for instance abstract more water from rivers or groundwater, or release less water from reservoirs than usual into the downstream environment. Abstraction from groundwater can impact spring flows, causing them to delay the start of the spring each year.

Some river bugs and river plants are very sensitive to reduction in water levels and flow, so abstraction and lower flow rates from drought protection measures can impact the bottom of the aquatic food chain, which also impacts the terrestrial food chain. For species with a long life-cycle, like dragonflies, less flow now may mean fewer dragonflies in four years when they finally pop out of the rivers!

Water companies do whatever they can to protect drinking water. Some options may cause temporary impacts to the environment, but drinking water resources must be retained for the health of the population. It is essential we therefore do our bit to protect this precious resource and save water where possible.

In our area, each person uses 131.5 litres of water a day on average. This figure has risen since the Covid-19 pandemic, and understandably goes up even more during hot weather. However, much of the water we use – such as watering your plants – does not actually need to be of drinking water quality. For example, using ‘grey water’ leftover from doing the dishes on your decorative garden plants for a few weeks will not harm them and will help save water.

The less water we use, the more stays in rivers (where it should be) as less is abstracted. That means more dilution of chemicals, more natural flows, no drying out of habitat, and more wildlife. That’s got to be worth using a watering can for, if you are able to.

To find out more about the impending hosepipe ban see yorkshirewater.com/your-water/is-there-a-hosepipe-ban

Common darter dragonfly ©Janet Packham