Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Conservationists have welcomed the Environment Agency’s call today for people across the West Country to use water wisely in the face of drought.
One of the worst droughts in living memory is gripping southern England and RSPB experts are predicting breeding failures for some our most threatened wetland birds as well as the increased threat of fire facing wildlife rich heathlands.
Tony Whitehead speaking for the RSPB in the south west said “Wise use of water is an essential part of dealing with a crisis which could be devastating for wildlife in our countryside.
“Reducing demand now will help keep more water in the environment, keeping rivers flowing for longer and protecting their precious wildlife. 
“Every indicator, whether river flow or groundwater level, is telling us that this is a very serious drought that could be worse than the infamous 1976 event. It is really important for us all to reduce the water we use in our homes and gardens now to hopefully avoid further environmental damage and restrictions in use later in the year.
“This is a serious and prolonged drought and if it continues will start to take its toll on RSPB wetland nature reserves in the region with dry conditions threatening to impact this spring’s breeding season in places such as the Somerset Levels and around the Exe Estuary. These are some of the last remaining homes in our countryside for breeding water birds such as snipe, redshank and lapwing.”
In the wider countryside, prospects are bleak for wildlife that needs moist soil conditions and healthy rivers. It is hoped however that pioneering work to restore and maintain important wet mires on Exmoor and Dartmoor led by Dartmoor National Park Authority and South West Water will enable these important habitats to be resilient to the worst excesses of drought. 
Conservationists are also concerned that heathland areas, such as in Dorset, East Devon and Cornwall, home to threatened species like the nightjar and Dartford warbler, are also tinder-dry and exceptionally vulnerable to the risk of fire.  The public is being urged to take extra care while visiting the countryside over the coming months.
There are simple things that everyone can do to reduce the water they use in their home and garden, helping to protect rivers and wetlands.
  • Take short showers rather than baths
  • Use water butts and used water from washing up bowls and basins to water gardens and house plants
  • Only use washing machines and dishwashers when you have a full load
  • Try not use hose-pipes or sprinklers in the garden or to clean your car
  • Contact your water company for water efficient shower heads and shower timers.


For further information, please contact:
Tony Whitehead 01392 453754 / 0797 621 6919
Notes to editors:
1.      While the RSPB is urging the public to play its role in helping our river and wetland wildlife through this drought, we are also working with the government and its agencies to help make sure that we and our environment can cope better with future droughts by investing in new infrastructure to drive wasteful leakage down and to avoid damaging our most important rivers and wetlands. We also want to see far greater efforts made to make our society water efficient and to painlessly cut consumption levels from 160 litres per head per day toward 100 litres per head per day. We will also be continuing our efforts to change the way we manage water in the countryside to retain more water in the landscape, to help protect and enhance  our precious aquifers and to reduce the waste of land drainage.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds · South West England Office · Keble House · Southernhay Gardens · Exeter · Devon ·EX1 1NT
Tel: 01392 432691 Fax: 01392 453750 or 
UK Headquarters Tel: 01767 680551 Website: www.rspb.org.uk
The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Nature is amazing - help us keep it that way. Click here to join today www.rspb.org.uk/join 
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037

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