Reservoirs filling rapidly in deluge but hosepipe bans remain

The Autumn deluge has seen reservoir levels rise rapidly, according to water companies, but some parts of the UK remain under a hosepipe ban.

In July and August, reservoirs across the north of England dropped dramatically following months of record low rainfall, with some reaching unprecedented levels, exposing lost villages and drowned bridges.

Yorkshire Water said the county had the same amount of rainfall in September and October as it did over the whole summer, from April to the end of August, but the region is still officially classed as in drought.

The firm said reservoir levels rose by 19% in the last six weeks, driven by a combination of the high rainfall and the ongoing drought measures, including the hosepipe ban.

It said it has been working closely with the Environment Agency to obtain additional drought measures.

Granville Davies, manager of water and catchment strategy at Yorkshire Water, said: “Reservoir levels are moving in the right direction – we’re seeing some significant increases week on week as the rainfall, drought permits, additional leakage activity and support from our customers to save water, help them to top up.

“We have had more rain recently than the previous summer months, but that rain doesn’t always fall evenly across the whole region – meaning that in some areas, such as South Yorkshire, reservoir levels are still much lower than we would hope.”

Mr Davies said: “We’re using our extensive network of pipes to move what we can around the region, but we have applied to the Environment Agency for additional measures to help us balance stocks in that area too.

Summer weather Aug 12th 2022

Baitings Reservoir, near Ripponden, West Yorkshire, where the bridge exposed in the summer drought (top) has now re-submerged (Dave Higgens/PA)

“It’s really important that we all continue to save water where we can – small changes in habits will help give reservoirs the best chance possible to top up this winter, ahead of the warmer months in Spring and Summer next year.

“We’re constantly reviewing the situation and as soon as we meet the requirements needed to remove the hosepipe ban, we will let our customers know.”

One image which captured the summer drought and heatwave was of the old bridge which was exposed at Baitings Reservoir, near Ripponden, West Yorkshire, due to the ultra-low water levels.

The bridge is now back under water as levels in the reservoir have risen dramatically in recent weeks.

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Woodhead Reservoir in August (top) and November (Dave Higgens/PA)

One dog walker braving the wet weather on the lake side on Thursday said: “You can almost see it filling up every day.

“About three weeks ago the water reached the parapet of the old bridge but people were still walking across it. It’s well under now. But it’s not surprising in this weather.”

The Woodhead Reservoir, on the A628 Woodhead Pass Road between Sheffield and Manchester is now completely full just three months after its exposed, parched and cracked bed became another symbol of the hot, dry summer.

Woodhead is managed by United Utilities which said: “Reservoirs across the North West region have been making a strong recovery with the autumn rainfall and most are now back to normal levels.

“Following a very dry summer, the Pennine area is still refilling and we’re grateful to customers for helping with that refill over the winter by continuing to use water wisely.

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Woodhead Reservoir, in Derbyshire, in August (top) and in November (Dave Higgens/PA)

“Saving water also saves on energy bills, helping household budgets as well as the environment.”

Drought was officially declared in August across most of England following the driest July for 50 years and the driest first half of the year since 1976.

Yorkshire Water, which has more than five million customers, imposed its first hosepipe ban in 27 years from August 26, when “the lowest rainfall since our records began more than 130 years ago” caused reservoir levels to fall below 50% full.

In September the firm said the ban could continue “well into” 2023 if there is a dry winter.

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