Drought Management Support

Location: Severn River Basin                                                                   Client: Environment Agency


Following the dry summer of 2018, the Environment Agency – West Midlands Area commissioned us to provide drought support on two fronts. We were appointed, firstly, to co-ordinate an update of the River Severn Drought Order (RSDO) Environmental Report and, secondly, to develop a transparent plan for applying Section 57 restrictions in the Wye catchment.


Update of RSDO Environmental Report

The RSDO Environmental Report was prepared originally in 2013, by the Environment Agency, to accompany future applications for a River Severn Drought Order. The RSDO aims to ration the regulation water used to support the River Severn, balancing human and environmental needs during a severe drought. Since the original Environmental Report is now several years old, it needed bringing up to date, reflecting legislative, procedural and environmental changes. We reviewed and co-ordinated the update of this report, liaising closely with Environment Agency staff across a range of teams as well as Natural Resources Wales (NRW). We also developed a detailed flowchart of the RSDO process, to formalise the procedures and provide Environment Agency staff with a common reference point when making an RSDO application.

Section 57 Action Plan

Under Section 57 (S57) of the Water Resources Act 1991, the Environment Agency has the power to impose a temporary restriction on the abstraction of water for spray irrigation purposes, during an exceptional shortage of rain or other emergency. The Environment Agency and NRW came close to enforcing such a restriction in the Wye catchment during the long dry summer of 2018. In anticipation of future prolonged dry weather periods, we were appointed to produce an ‘off the shelf’ S57 Action Plan for the Wye catchment. This included establishing triggers and a timeline of actions to be taken during dry weather; identifying the spray irrigation licences (surface water and groundwater) within the Wye catchment where S57 would apply; and, assessing the benefits of applying S57 restrictions to these licences by calculating the flow savings that could be made. The Action Plan also includes template letters to warn and enforce abstractors of the restrictions, and communication information such as lines to take and FAQs.


The updated RSDO report and S57 Action Plan have improved the Environment Agency’s drought preparedness and helped them to be incident ready.

Want to know more?

For more information about this project please contact Claire French.

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