Irrigation prospects for 2019 downgraded

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The Environment Agency has downgraded irrigation prospects for the 2019 season due to lower than average rainfall and available weather forecasts.

Prospects in East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire are now rated ‘poor’ meaning that growers are likely to face restrictions on abstraction for irrigation during the growing season due to low water levels.

Many other areas are assessed as having ‘moderate’ status meaning that controls may be placed on surface water abstraction if hot and dry conditions prevail in summer. Full detail on the EA’s assessments for each area can be found in the May 2019 prospects for irrigation.

Updated prospects for irrigation - forecast for 2019 (May 2019)

What can growers do now? Top tips for water savvy farming

  • Ensure water is applied as efficiently as possible to make it last the season
  • Re-assess your irrigation strategy based on crop value and contracts against likely water available
  • Check pipes and equipment to ensure water is not leaked and lost
  • Utilise available storage capacity and apply to the EA to fill reservoirs out of season in the event that some abstraction is possible
  • Trade water with neighbours (see EA water rights trading map for East Anglia, Midlands and Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire)

Consider alternative sources of water that are available for use in an emergency (e.g. boreholes, mains water, tankered water)

More tools and resources on the AHDB weather page

Water resources expert Nicola Dunn said:

“The current outlook is for a difficult irrigation season due to lower than average rainfall over the winter months following last year’s drought. The wet weather in March wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of recovery in groundwater levels, and river flows have also been declining due to recent dry weather.

“While some wet weather over the summer is always a possibility, the Environment Agency’s prospects suggest that frequent restrictions on abstraction are likely, especially in key growing areas in the East. To help plan for what has the potential to be yet another dry summer, farmers and growers can follow our tips for water savvy farming and we’ll ensure updates to the water situation are available for you to view.”