Parts of the UK are now officially in a state of drought and the EA is warning that more regions will follow, with the situation being potentially worse than in 1976 (although I can’t really remember that…). I’ve been asked a few times recently whether this will impact the food manufacturing sector. So, what are the implications for industry? There are a series of steps water companies can take, depending on the seriousness of the situation.
Initially, water companies can apply for drought permits, which can allow normal abstraction restrictions to be relaxed to ensure continuity of supply – so environmental protection rules are relaxed in times of need.
Second come ordinary drought orders, which restrict use of water for certain activities specified in the Drought Direction 2011. This includes, for example, washing vehicles, using hosepipes and dust supression. In addition, the EA can restrict abstraction from rivers and groundwater where deemed necessary.
Finally, emergency drought orders can be enforced. These allows water companies to restrict water use for any use that they consider to be inappropriate. This is where they could legally stop businesses using water, but it is highly unlikely to happen, particularly for food and beverage manufacturers.
Of course, if you have your own supply, there may be practical limitations to what you can supply should groundwater or river levels fall considerably.
You can get more information on this from Defra here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/water/resources/drought/