Date of this Version
The privatization of the water industry in 1989 heralded a new era in water management in England and Wales, but it also coincided with the beginning of a period of volatile climatic patterns that have served to strongly underline a continuing vulnerability to unusual weather patterns. Following the very protracted drought that lasted until late 1992 in parts of eastern England, the resilience of water supply arrangements in the United Kingdom was again severely tested during a remarkably dry five-month spell beginning in the early spring of 1995. The water resources outlook at the beginning of this period was exceptionally healthy—reservoirs were at capacity and ground water levels were close to seasonal maxima following the wettest 30-month sequence in the entire British rainfall series, which extends back to 1869. However, the subsequent transformation in hydrological conditions has few, if any, modern parallels. For much of the spring and most of the summer, a northward extension of the Azores high pressure cell served to deflect most rain-bearing frontal systems and bring subtropical air masses across the British Isles. Rainfall deficiencies built up quickly and a heat wave throughout much of July and August produced a marked intensification in drought conditions. August rainfall totals were less than 15% of average over wide areas, and the mean temperature established the month as the second warmest in the 337-year Central England Temperature series.