The UK is experiencing prolonged dry weather and unsurprisingly, this affects our canals, rivers, reservoirs and groundwater supplies. Despite this more than 90% of the Trust's 2,000 miles of waterways are currently still open for boaters to enjoy as normal.
We are, however, seeing some localised issues on parts of our network, especially in the North West.
Although the reservoirs, which supply our network in the North West, were 100% full in April, the exceptionally dry conditions from May onwards has led to their rapid drawdown. A number of these reservoirs are relatively small and rely on regular inflows from rainwater during the spring and summer to add more water to them as usage increases.
The below average rainfall in recent months has meant that the reservoirs haven't been able to recharge at a sufficient rate to provide for the summer's boating in some places. This has led to restrictions and closures on parts of our network. See our map for the current affected canal stretches.
So what have we been doing about this?
The team has been working really hard alongside various technical and operational colleagues from across the Trust; closely monitoring the developing drought by reviewing reservoir levels and keeping tabs on how much water is needed to operate each canal while balancing the needs of the environment. Demands have been particularly high, with the recent high temperatures leading to much higher than average evaporation for this time of year, and small watercourses drying up quickly. This has added to the localised engineering issues our waterside colleagues have also been having to deal with on a daily basis.
As a Trust, we have been carefully liaising with other organisations to minimise disruption to our customers and users of our canals. For example, our hydrologists have been talking to the Environment Agency about reducing the flows we send to the environment during the dry weather. We're also working with our engineering colleagues to look for opportunities to complete works while canals are closed, which will minimise disruption to our customers at other times of the year.
It takes a lot of time and effort to predict how long water resources may last and, in doing so, how long we can keep a canal open for: clearly this is our main priority as closing canals is the last resort.