2018 was one of the driest summers on record with lake levels for Thirlmere and Haweswater (above) reaching only 40.1% full. Cumbria supplies much of the north west region with water, approximately 7 million people. With little rainfall, our lakes from which water has been abstracted have been getting lower and lower.

Over many years we have asked that United Utilities put out information to the public asking them to reduce their water usage at an early stage of any drought. This has now happened, but in our view the messaging is not strong enough.

There is a lack of connection between the impacts of the water use on our landscape and the messaging that is given out. Many people will not realise that when they turn their taps on, Haweswater, Thirlmere, Windermere and Ullswater are reducing in volume, with consequent impacts on wildlife, landscape, access, residents and importantly, businesses based on some of these lakes. Perhaps it is time to make this connection once again.

At the end of July United Utilities applied for Drought Orders for Windermere and Ullswater which would enable them to take more water than the licences allow. In previous droughts, we have objected because we felt landscape has not been given sufficient consideration. However, UU have learnt from this and for the above lakes have spent significant time and money investigating all likely impacts and documenting them. Such was this thoroughness that we felt we had no cause to object to the Drought Order applications. It is now raining again although long term forecasts are not for significant rain, so we may well have low lake levels for some time. Drought orders for Windermere and Ullswater remain in place.

Things to ponder re the future are how we connect water users with the landscapes of the places where there water comes from, and what impact will the plans of the Government to allow trading of water between companies and areas of the country have on our landscapes?