While millions of Britons are enjoying the heatwave, the dry weather is causing problems for farmers who are concerned about their crops and livestock, forcing some into desperate measures to keep their cattle alive.
Guy Smith, the deputy president of the National Farmers Union, said it was too early to predict a disastrous harvest, but every day of heat and lack of rain was likely to make it smaller.
Smith – who farms what he says is officially the driest farm in Britain, in Essex, and which has not seen any rain at all in June – said that in his part of the world “it’s getting to the point where rain won’t help”.
In Derbyshire, the hot weather has left hundreds of homes and farms without water, forcing one farmer to dig out an old well to source water for his cows.
Greg Cotterell, of Bank Top farm in Fenny Bentley, said the abandoned well he unearthed produces only a quarter of the water his cows need to survive and he was having to carry the water to their troughs with containers. “This is so serious now, this is literally a serious animal welfare issue,” he told the Derby Telegraph.
Andrew Webster, who runs a Jersey and Guernsey herd in a neighbouring village near Ashbourne, asked the supplier Severn Trent to send a water tanker for his 70 cows. He was offered only bottled water.
His brother Richard, who runs an agriculture food supply business from the family farm, accused Severn Trent of putting profit before animal welfare.
He told the Guardian: “Bottled water is hopelessly impractical for cows, so you have cows in this heatwave that haven’t got anything to drink. It’s a desperate situation. It is not just us, it’s affecting a whole load of farms in the area. It’s having a huge effect on business.”
He added: “I suspect there are hundreds of homes without water. We haven’t had a dribble of water since the beginning of Wednesday.”
Severn Trent apologised to customers and insisted that water supplies were returning to the Derbyshire villages of Parwich, Aldwark and Longcliffe. It blamed a “huge spike in demand for water” during the heatwave.
Webster was sceptical after the company made similar promises when supplies were hit in the cold snap in March. He said: “During the ‘beast from east’ we were out for at least three days and then it was another two days before pressure returned.”
The local MP and former cabinet minister, Patrick McCloughlin, has raised the issue with the company.
I am conscious that this is the second time residents have been affected by water supply issues in the past 4 months and will be raising this with .@stwater, particulary with regard to the recent report and recommendations from @ofwat after the problems in March
— Patrick McLoughlin (@Patrick4Dales) June 28, 2018
Webster said the area was regularly hit by water supply problems in the winter, when pipes freeze, and in the summer when high demand creates airlocks in the pipes and shrinking clay breaks cast-iron mains.
An Ofwat spokeswoman said: “Water companies should have solid plans to deal with it and deal with a rise in demand for water. We will be watching to see how companies respond to this hot spell – keeping customer informed and, if there are restrictions, we expect them to tell customers what is happening, when supplies will be return and make alternatives – like bottled water – readily available.”
A spokesman for Severn Trent said: “Our region is experiencing the hottest June in 40 years and we have seen a very significant increase in demand for water. We are supplying 300m extra litres of water a day to meet this demand but unfortunately we currently have around 250 customers who do not have water in Derbyshire. We apologise to those customers affected and would like to assure them that we are working hard to put this right as soon as possible.”