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Down hoses for wildlife, conservationists urge

Last modified: 05 April 2012

Lapwing bathing

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.

Today sees 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.

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.

There are simple things that everyone can do to reduce the water they use in their home and garden

'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 the Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire.

'These are some of the last remaining homes in our countryside for breeding wading birds like snipe, redshanks and black-tailed godwits.'

Staff on RSPB reserves are managing water carefully to try and 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 like 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 while visiting the countryside over Easter.

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 hose-pipe ban restrictions and please don't 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.

How you can help

Nature is in trouble – so millions of people are stepping up to help. Our wildlife has been disappearing at an alarming rate. But small steps make a big difference. If we all act together and get stuck in, we can save our wildlife.