10/04/2012
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Down hoses for wildlife

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Conservationists have welcomed the introduction of a hosepipe ban across drought-stricken areas of England. One of the worst droughts in living memory is gripping southern and eastern areas 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. This week saw the introduction of a hosepipe ban by seven water companies, and people are being urged to consider the impact their water use will have on nature.

HDR hosepipe
(Photo: nick@ on flickr)

Phil Burston, RSPB water policy officer, said: "This hosepipe ban 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 serious and prolonged drought has already had a big impact on RSPB wetland nature reserves across the drought-hit area, with dry conditions threatening to impact this spring's breeding season at many sites, such as Northward Hill and Elmley Marshes in Kent, and Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire. These are some of the last remaining homes in our countryside for breeding wading birds like Snipe, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit."

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Staff on RSPB reserves are managing water carefully to try to reduce the risk to wetland birds by reducing leakage in weirs and sluices and optimising where and how water is used to improve drought resilience. In the wider countryside, prospects are bleak for wildlife that needs moist soil conditions and healthy rivers. Heathland areas, home to threatened species such as the Nightjar and the Dartford Warbler, are also tinder-dry and exceptionally vulnerable to the risk of fire. The public is being urged to take extra care.

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.
  • Comply with hosepipe ban restrictions and please don't use hosepipes or sprinklers in the garden or to clean your car.
  • Contact your water company for water-efficient shower-heads and shower timers.
Written by: RSPB