NRW taking action as Wales experiences prolonged dry weather

Following the extended period of warm and dry weather, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has today (22 June 2023) confirmed that the trigger thresholds have been met to move the whole of Wales from ‘normal’ into ‘prolonged dry weather’ status.

The decision is based on hydrological and environmental factors and concerns around the pressures high temperatures and lack of significant rainfall has placed on rivers, groundwater levels, wildlife and the wider natural environment across Wales. 

Prolonged dry weather is a natural event which has become more likely as climate change accelerates. It occurs when rainfall is lower than expected for a sustained period of time resulting in low river, reservoir and groundwater levels as well as the drying up of land and soils.

Despite recent rainfall triggered by summer thunderstorms, river flows across Wales are currently low for the time of year. Groundwater levels have also been receding, with some sites exceptionally low and soils drier than expected.

In May, Wales received 41% of its long term average (LTA) rainfall (1981-2010) which was the second driest May in the last 25 years, with only 2020 drier. As of 19 June 23, Wales has seen 32% of its LTA for June rainfall so far.

NRW is already dealing with the impacts of the prolonged dry weather on the environment, including reports of fish in distress, with some becoming trapped in pools in lower reaches due to low flows and higher river temperatures. NRW has already provided advice to anglers fishing during hot temperatures. There are also concerns for protected sites such as fens, peatlands, heath and grasslands which are home to many species.  

NRW officers are providing support to fire and rescue services to tackle multiple grass and wildfire incidents on the land that it manages.  Prolonged dry weather can also impact crop and grass growth, and NRW is urging farmers to follow the dry weather advice provided on its website

Following a wet winter, water companies are reporting that their reservoir levels are in a good place for the time of yearHowever, NRW fully supports their advice for people across the country to use water wisely and help to protect water supplies and the environment.

Natalie Hall, Sustainable Water Manager at NRW said:

“The prolonged hot and dry spell has led to concerns about the impacts low rainfall, river and groundwater levels, as well as drying up of soils, are having on our ecosystems and habitats, land management and agricultural sector. As such, we have taken the decision to move the whole of Wales into prolonged dry weather status.

“For us, this means stepping up our actions and monitoring across Wales to help mitigate the impacts on the environment, land, water users and people, and responding to environmental incidents.

“Our drought teams will continue to meet regularly to review the status, and will work closely with our partners to ensure we take appropriate action to reduce impacts on the environment and other water users across Wales.

“To ensure water can continue to be supplied without damaging the environment, the public and businesses across Wales are being urged to use water wisely and manage this precious resource.”

NRW’s decision to declare prolonged dry weather status was shared with the Wales Drought Liaison Group earlier today. The group is chaired by the Welsh Government and made up of senior decision-makers from NRW, the Met Office, water companies, Public Health Wales, farming unions and local authority representatives.

The areas affected by today’s change in status from normal to ‘prolonged dry weather’ are:

  • Dee (Wales)
  • Upper Severn
  • North Gwynedd (Conwy, Anglesey, Arfon, Dwyfor)
  • South Gwynedd (Meirionydd)
  • North Ceredigion (Rheidol, Aeron, Ystwyth)
  • Teifi
  • Pembrokeshire (E & W Cleddau)
  • Carmarthen (Tywi, Taf)
  • Swansea & Llanelli (Taw and Loughor)
  • Neath Port Talbot & Bridgend (Neath, Afan and Ogmore)
  • Wye (Wales)
  • Usk
  • Valleys (Taff, Ebbw, Rhymney, Ely)
  • Vale of Glamorgan (Thaw)

NRW is engaging closely with the Environment Agency in respect to the cross border catchments.

When enjoying the outdoors, please be mindful that wildlife and ecosystems are under more stress. Members of the public should report any environment incidents to the 24/7 hotline on 0300 065 3000.

Some areas may also be at a higher risk of fires. If you see a wildfire, get to a safe place, call 999 and ask for the Fire Service.

For more dry weather updates, please visit Natural Resources Wales / Dry weather updates

Waterwise’s website provides details on how to use water wisely. Wales’ water companies, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) and Hafren Dyfrdwy (HD), also offer advice to customers on their websites on how to save water.

If entering water courses for paddling, please consider the advice issued by Canoe Wales