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World at Risk: Summer 2009

Drought doubt?

June 2006

Did you know that there is less water per head in the southeast of England than there is in the Sudan?

Drought doubt

Did you know that there is less water per head in the southeast of England than there is in the Sudan?

The statistics, from the Environment Agency, show that there are 58,000 gallons of water available for every person in south-east England per year, while in Syria the figure is 95,000 gallons and in Sudan - a country wracked by civil war - 269,000.

Following the second dry winter in a row, southern England is starting summer with dangerously low water storage levels. Following a two-year period of generally light rainfall – the least recorded for 30 years – the worst-hit area of East Surrey introduced a ban on non-essential water use on 15 May.

The ban restricts the use of water for such purposes as the filling of private swimming pools and ornamental ponds. This drought order will last until 15 November and affects over 600,000 people.

Elsewhere, a further eight companies across south-east England now have a full hosepipe and sprinkler ban in place. Nearly 13 million people must not use a hosepipe to wash their cars or water their gardens.

This is not the first time this has happened. Thirty years ago in 1976, the whole of England experienced similar drought conditions. Widespread bans on water use were introduced. Farmers and water-dependent businesses were severely restricted in their usage.

How did they cope? What will happen now that such severe restrictions are being introduced again in 2006? And what are the causes of such extreme droughts?

Water: how we compare

UK

Syria

Sudan

Average annual rainfall (inches)

44

10-20

40

Population (million)

59

16

34

Life expectancy (years)

78

72

56

Water supplies from

Rainfall, rivers, reservoirs

Rivers, rainfall between Oct and May, drought is common

Rivers (including the Nile) and rainfall but drought is common

Total turnover of water companies (2002-03) £billions

6.6

Not available

Not available

Water industry run by

Private companies

Government and Western aid agencies

Government and Western aid agencies

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

Relevance

This resource will appeal to A-level candidates who are studying atmospheric systems, climatic challenges or natural hazards. Learning about drought management can also help synoptic performance at A2 (Year 13). Additional support has been provided for teachers of geography at key stages 1 and 2 who are asking: who uses water?

In the Members' Area:

  • What is a drought?
  • What is happening to English water supplies in 2006?
  • Why was there such extreme drought in 1976?
  • How did people cope in 1976?
  • What to do – water meters for all?
  • A-level theory: air masses and UK weather
  • A-level exam tips
  • Key Stage 1 and 2 teaching suggestions

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