Farmers and businesses are being encouraged by the Environment Agency (EA) to improve and take responsibility for water storage as extreme weather in the UK becomes a more regular occurrence.

EA figures show that in 2012 one in every five days saw flooding and one in four days were in drought, which included hosepipe bans affecting over 20 million people. Over 6,000 flood warnings and alerts were issued last year.

Models suggest that a changing climate could reduce some river flows by up to 80 per cent during the summer in the next 40 years, affecting water supplies.

To tackle this, the EA has suggested increasing the number of water storage reservoirs to secure more reliable water supply for irrigation, largely used by farmers. At present, there are around 1,700 small-scale storage reservoirs across England and Wales, supplying 30 per cent of total irrigation needs.

Lord Smith, chairman of the EA, said last years’ unusual weather highlighted the need for action. “More of this extreme weather will exacerbate many of the problems that we already deal with including flooding and water scarcity, so taking action today to prepare and adapt homes, businesses, agricultural practices and infrastructure is vital,” he said.