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Monday, January 5, 1998 Published at 19:15 GMT


Rain wrong kind of water to fill reservoirs
image: [ It will take months of steady drizzle to restore water levels ]
It will take months of steady drizzle to restore water levels

Water companies have warned that more rain is needed before the drought in the UK can be officially declared over.

Torrential rain and severe flooding now hitting the West Country, Wales and parts of Northern England is helping to raise reservoir levels.

But only months of steady drizzle will restore vital underground supplies to anything like normal levels.

Adrian Beeby of the Water Companies Association: "it appears to have chucked it down solidly" (Dur: 0' 22")
Adrian Beeby, a spokesman for the Water Services Association, said: "Of course the rain is welcome and reservoir levels are rising in most regions. But the underground supplies are starting from a very low base after a dry two and a half year period."

Aquifers - underground reservoirs - rely on water seeping down through topsoil. If the ground is baked hard through months of drought, only steady drizzle can soften it up.

Mr Beeby added: "In north London, Hertfordshire and Essex it took four years to restore underground water levels after the drought of the mid 1980s."

Friends of the Earth Campaigns Director, Tony Juniper, suggested that current storms might be regarded as an example of climate change.

"This very severe weather is consistent with the changes predicted by leading climate scientists, although it is impossible to link any individual weather event with climate change," he said.

At December's Kyoto Earth Summit, the UK and other nations agreed to legally binding cuts in greenhouse gases, the chief cause of global warming.

More storms, hurricanes, droughts and flooding are expected to result from the imbalance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because of traffic and industry pollution.

Many insurance companies are inundated with inquiries from homeowners suffering damage to property as a result of the storms. The industry is gearing up for more extreme weather.

Tony Juniper said the global insurance industry had seen a "dramatic" increase in the number of weather-related claims.

"Figures show there's been a 10-fold increase since 1960 in the economic damage caused by earthquakes, storms, flooding and typhoons," he added.

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  Internet Links

UK Meteorlogical Office

Environment Agency for England and Wales

Water Services Association

Friends of the Earth

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