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The Wettest Drought on Record


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Presentation delivered jointly by Richard Aylard (Thames Water), Trevor Bishop (Environment Agency), Nick Ellins (Water UK), Tim Collins (Natural England) at Communicate 2012: Breaking Boundaries. The Wettest Drought on Record focused on the challenges of communicating water saving messages in the face of a summer of heavy rainfall.

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The Wettest Drought on Record

  1. 1. The wettest drought on record:Counter-intuitive communications
  2. 2. From 2009 we see varying weather patternsThe Jet stream takes usual rain out to seaNormal Jet stream Drought Jet stream
  3. 3. Below average rainfallMonthly rainfall deficit, Thames region
  4. 4. August 2011:Urging customers to use water wisely
  5. 5. August 2011: Managing expectationsThames Water said yesterday: “It mayseem like it’s always raining, but we’vehad below average rainfall across ourregion for nine of the past 12 months.”
  6. 6. August 2011: Educating customers
  7. 7. Below average rainfall – winter 2011/12Monthly rainfall deficit, Thames region
  8. 8. The environmental drought develops “We are facing a severe water shortage.” Environment Secretary CarolineSpelman confirms a drought for thesouth east of England and warns of impending hosepipe bans.
  9. 9. The impact of the drought
  10. 10. Rescue squads sent in to save drought-hit fish “Dr ought condit ions have so badly af f ect ed wildlif e in some r egions t hat r escue par t ies have been cr eat ed t o save f ish f r om r apidly disappear ing r iver s.” "Never ever has it dr ied up t his ear ly in t he year . I t has a t er r ible ef f ect ... We are running out of rivers to put the fish in” Guardian, 3 April 2012
  11. 11. Wildlife complexities Droughts are natural – however: - Many wetland ecosystems already under pressure - Fragmentation has led to isolation Individuals lost or population at risk? Visible impact versus ecological resilience Damaged or able to recover? Robust or fragile ecosystems? Timeline for recovery?
  12. 12. 5 April:Waterrestrictionsimposed
  13. 13. April 2012 Paddington station
  14. 14. But then…
  15. 15. Jet stream moves south
  16. 16. and the rain came…
  17. 17. … and communicating became ‘interesting’
  18. 18. May 2012 Swindon
  19. 19. Improving understanding
  20. 20. Customer viewsQ: How much difference has the rain made?A: 89% recognised there was still a water shortage despite the rain I don’t knowNo difference.Water shortage as No longer a seriousserious as ever 2% water shortage 13% 9% 27% 49%Very little difference.Water shortage still Improved situation, butalmost as serious still a serious water shortage429 Thames Water customer panellists, Community Research 10-14 May2012
  21. 21. Customer understandingQ: Do you agree with the following statements?429 Thames Water customer panellists, Community Research 10-14 May2012
  22. 22. June 2012 Reading Station
  23. 23. Maintaining momentum
  24. 24. August 2012 Charing Cross Station
  25. 25. Visits to WaterwiselyIn the first week of the Olympicsadverts appearing:Over 20,000 visitors to Waterwiselywebsite – 15 times more than thesame period the prior month.
  26. 26. Recent rainfallMonthly rainfall deficit, Thames region
  27. 27. The lessons learnt