Rye faces summer drought threat

Romney Marsh in the winter of 2014

It’s been said by those who are supposed to know these things, that Rye faces the threat of flooding, although until now there has never had any serious flooding in the town. Now, we are told, there is a serious water shortage which, unlike flooding which would spread to only part of Rye, could, if the prognostications are correct, will affect all of us.
The Environment Agency has warned that the region could suffer drought conditions without substantially higher than average rainfall over the next three months. Despite wet weather since the end of December and into January, the South East had two dry winters proceeded by dry autumns, with rainfall much lower than average. Summer rains have helped slightly.
The ditch’s (dykes) on Romney Marsh, usually full to the top of the banks in a normal winter, have been only half full in the last two winters. Neither have the rivers Brede and Tilling  flooded, as they would normally do, into adjoining fields in the winter of 2016/17 or this year. Bewl Water reservoir is currently only 44% full, when in normal times would be 75% full, Southern Water and South East Water are applying for a drought permit ready for the summer when demand will increase.
So conserve your water before hosepipe bans and other restrictions are imposed.
[Editor’s note: Back in the 1970s (or was it the ’60s) we had another severe drought, in fact so severe, that the government of the time appointed a minister of rain. Within a few weeks of his appointment, it started to rain and continued to do so for the next three months (the government, of course, claimed the credit). Maybe the current administration should follow that example! One of the effects of that drought was the issuing of various public information notices on how to save water, one of which, given the permissive thinking of the time, read “Save water, bath with a friend”. As a young man, living in London and having, at that time, a particularly attractive girlfriend, this seemed the best bit of advice any government could possibly come up with. Gentlemanly discretion, however, forbids me from saying whether the girlfriend felt the same!]

Photo: Dennis Leeds-George


  1. What a splendid idea – time for another Minister for Drought. Mrs May has a cabinet of wets and drips, and would easily qualify herself, so there’s no shortage of suitable candidates.

  2. A rain check is required! The editor’s note above states that the government in 1976 appointed a ‘minister of rain’.
    They did not. The Labour government appointed Dennis Howell as Minister for Drought.
    The pejorative ‘minister for rain’ was applied to Mr Howells by the slavishly Tory-supporting newspapers as a (successful) attempt to ridicule the Labour government.
    Further abuse that the government sort to claim responsibility for the onset of rain a few weeks after Howell’s appointment was made up by the rags. Today, this would be called ‘fake news’.
    However, it did rain, there was severe flooding and Mr Howells was appointed Minister for Floods.
    [PS Was the chivalrous Editor up for the Order of the Bath?]

  3. It was 1976 when the Government appointed Denis Howell as minister for rain – his official titles were Minister of State for Drought and, conversely, Minister of State for Floods. Walking along the rain-sodden lanes in Pett and Guestling yesterday, one could be led to think that there was no water shortage, but I’m sure the experts know better.

  4. While understanding the problem, I am interested to note that there is no mention at all of the extra houses that have been built in the area. Have Southern Water invested in any increased capacity, let alone sewage, to take account of this? As they are, allegedly, ultimately owned by a company based in Hong Kong, do they understand the need to invest in water supply? The need to continually replace leaking pipes and ensure further increase in reservoirs to supply the new homes? I support new houses for people but there is the need to ensure a good infrastructure to support them. I would be interested to know and learn what Southern Water have done.


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