Torrential rain in East Anglia could mean April was a record-breaker

Drought-hit East Anglia may have suffered its wettest April on record – but the warnings remain that even record rainfall will not correct the region's long-term water shortage.

Anglia Water bosses acknowledged the irony of the torrential rains which arrived soon after the company's hosepipe ban was enforced on April 5 – a situation which has been described as the 'wettest drought in history'.

Before yesterday, the weather station at Weybourne in north Norfolk had recorded 111mm of rainfall, with 97mm at Marham in west Norfolk and Wittering near Peterborough seeing 127mm – almost three times the regional average of 44mm.

The Met Office will not be able to confirm if it is a record until its monthly statistics are published on Wednesday, but confirmed that 90.4mm of rain fell across the whole of Norfolk between April 1 and 25, which excludes the downpours this weekend.

Anglian Water spokesman Ciaran Nelson said the current rainy weather made it more of a challenge to convince customers of the urgent need to reduce their daily usage, and help depleted ground-water resources stretch throughout the summer.

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'The irony of talking about a drought at the end of the wettest April on record, if that is what it becomes, is not lost on us,' he said. 'We have got to remember we are coming out of the driest 18 months for a century. We just hope that people can cast their minds back to the two dry winters just gone and the summer we experienced last year, and all those things which add up to the situation we are in.

'The very fact that we are talking about the rain shows just how unusual it has become in our lives. The risk is that we take our eyes off the ball if we look at gardens and see they are full of puddles. We have got very short memories when it comes to the weather and, if we don't remember how dry it has been in the last 24 months, then we run the risk of stopping doing what we should be doing – which is saving water.'

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Speculative national reports have suggested the wet April could be followed by the coldest May on record – although Norfolk forecasters said it was impossible to accurately predict the weather beyond the next two weeks.

Chris Bell, a forecaster at Norwich-based Weatherquest, said: 'We certainly could be heading for one of the wettest Aprils on record.

'The information we're looking at does suggest a continuation of slightly unsettled conditions over the next couple of weeks. We are not going to be scorching hot, I would agree with that, but I don't see anything suggesting its going to be overly cold. I suspect that has been a bit over-done.

'At the moment the first part of May looks a little bit wetter than average, with temperatures slightly below average.'

Mr Bell said it was impossible to tell whether the wet April was the start of the longer-term trend which is needed to replenish ground water levels,

'The quick answer is I don't know,' he said. 'It could be we are getting back into a more average situation. The last three Aprils have been very warm and dry until this year, and there is also a thought that a colder April can lead to a warmer summer, but nobody knows for sure. If you get into forecasting more than two weeks out it becomes very speculative.'

Mr Bell also reiterated the warning that the region's long-term water supply remained a concern.

'We are talking about two years of below average rainfall so obviously one or two months won't make up for that long-term drought,' he said. 'It seems weird when you are driving across the countryside and seeing rivers out of their banks and ground soaked and flooded, but there is still a shortage on the ground water supplies.'

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