Severn Trent has been granted a drought permit by the Environment Agency, which will allow it to take more water from two reservoirs.

The water company will be able to increase the amount of water it can take from Foremark and Staunton Harold reservoirs until the end of March.

Severn Trent has made the move to top up supplies in the event of another dry summer, as experienced last year.

A spokesperson for the company said: “We’ve received a drought permit from the Environment Agency to increase the amount of water we’re allowed to take from Foremark and Staunton Harold reservoirs until the end of this month.

“We took the decision as a result of the incredibly hot summer, when demand for treated water was so high, and because rainfall in the East Midlands has been considerably below average for the last eight months.

“Customers won’t see any changes to their service and the reservoirs will be largely unaffected.  We’re not expecting any negative impacts on the environment but we will continue with our normal monitoring programme.”

Last year the Environment Agency issued six drought permits to water companies. It said it reviewed each application to ensure the environment was not put at risk.

The National Drought Group (NDG) met on 21 January, chaired by Harvey Bradshaw, executive director at the Environment Agency, to assess the water resource situation and actions being taken to reduce risk for summer 2019.

At the meeting the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency urged water companies to “act early” in making any future applications.

The departments said a “fair assessment of the water needs of people, industry, farmers and the environment takes time – and also because teams are working to prepare for EU exit.”

Extreme weather in 2018 – the “Beast from the East” and the summer heatwave – put pressure on the sector to test its resilience and drought plans.

Following a request at the previous NDG meeting, Water UK has reported on the actions the water sector has taken to protect water supplies and reduce longer term drought risk in its Managing water supplies in 2018 and preparing for 2019 report.

The Environment Agency and Defra welcomed the activity and clarity provided by the sector.

Towards the end of January most water companies were shown to be in a “better position” than at the start of 2018 but several companies still had reservoirs and/or groundwater below average levels, the NDG said after its meeting.

The companies reassured the NDG they are taking necessary actions such as changing how they operate their sources of water, spending more on tackling leakage, promoting water efficiency and offering additional services to customers.

What to read next