Water shortage?

Went round Burrator Reservoir on the bike today. It’s one of our main water sources. And in November – traditionally the wettest time of year – it should be pretty full. But it isn’t. Instead, the water level is startlingly low.

We still think of this as a wet year, after about 6-7 weeks of exceptionally high rainfall in June and July. But the past three months have been back to something more normal: predominantly dry, with occasional wet days. Still, nothing unusual, except that it should be relatively dry in peak wet season.

That leads me to suspect that the underlying cause may be more one of demand than supply. People are using more water than ever before. That’s worrying. It’s a trend that’s not going to reverse with variations in the weather, but is going in one direction only. And after a season when noone had to water their gardens or irrigate their farms through the summer.

One more reason to emigrate?

Postscript: googling for a nice link to Burrator Reservoir, I found these photos from November 2003, a very dry year. The photographer notes that the water was exceptionally low. It’s a little higher today, but not much. Other photos, such as this panorama from December 2000, show it at more normal levels.

Posted on November 6, 2007, in dartmoor, environment, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Burrator is a very small reservoir part-serving Devon’s largest city, so it can get depleted quite quickly. I believe it is currently at about 55% capacity which is quite normal for the time of year. Stocks in the regions much larger strategic reservoirs are in the region of 75% to 85%, again typical for the time of year. So there’s nothing unusual about the present state of any of the local reservoirs.

    One factor that is putting pressure on local water supplies is increasing population. The growth in the number of local residents is happening faster than the provision of additional infrastructure to meet their needs, although fortunately the local water system has quite a bit of spare capacity these days.

    As far as the overuse of water is concerned, I agree that some people can be quite profligate with it. One problem is the fact that too many properties are still charged flat “water rates” which provide no incentive to the occupiers to cut consumption. When my parents switched the family home from rates to a meter, their water bill fell by a factor of three. I’m living there now, and still find the (metered) water costs reasonable, but then I don’t water the garden (nature does that for me!)and I tend to shower rather than bath. Yet there’s a lot of opposition to compulsory metering even though many households would seemingly be better off.

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