Britain's worst water shortage in 200 years has reduced the River Thames to its lowest level in living memory.
Britain's worst water shortage in 200 years has reduced the River Thames to its lowest level in living memory. The drought has diminished the flow to little more than a trickle at kew, just west of London. At low tide there, sightseers can literally walk across the river. It is the first time in memory that this part of the Thames has become un-navigable.
Kew is one the uppermost reaches of the tidal Thames and unusually low spring tides have added to the effects of the drought there. But other parts of the river are also suffering. The non-tidal section of the Thames is about 35 per cent lower than usual. However, water is still being drawn from it for domestic consumption. If the drought persists, the flow of fresh water into the Thames may be cut off entirely to conserve supplies for people, river plants and fish.
Water levels in reservoirs and lakes are also drooping to seriously low levels. Stocks of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife are endangered by the shortage and rescue operations have been mounted in some areas. Fish are being transferred form dangerously low lakes and reservoirs to places where water is less likely to diminish.
The water shortage is one result of a major shift in the weather pattern of the northern hemisphere. After a succession of mild winters, the Arctic ice cap has receded and the North Atlantic weather pattern has tended to shift northwards. As a result, the patterns of rain which used to fill Britain's reservoirs are passing north of the country across Greenland, Iceland, Northern Scandinavia and Siberia.
Although the drought is exceptional, Britain's National Water Council says there is no need for panic. A spokesmen said that if people moderate their demands there will be enough water to go round.
SYNOPSIS: It is the first time in memory that this pat of the river has become un-navigable. The situation has been aggravated by the exceptionally low spring tides which normally boost the water level at this time of year. Many boats have been stranded and pleasure steamers have had to abandon what used to be a profitable tourist trip. What used to be islands are now connected to the riverbank by sheets of almost-dry mud.
What little water remains could disappear if an emergency plan is used to conserve the flow of fresh water for people, fish, river plants and waterfowl.
If the drought persists, the Thames Conservancy Board may be forced to cut off the flow of fresh water at Teddington Lock, just upstream from here.
Water levels in reservoirs and lakes have also dropped seriously and in some places, fish are being rescued and transferred to safer areas. Here in the Thames Valley, local authorities are stunning trout with electrical equipment and moving them to spots where there is more water.
Also at risk are waterfowl, and small animals living on the banks. They will die soon unless the situation improves.