Further action has been agreed upon to support farmers if the dry weather persists following a review into water resources ahead of summer.
It comes as farmers experienced a dry winter and spring which has affected river flows and groundwater levels.
Lower than average rainfall, continuing through April and May – particularly in the East of England – has seen some river flows decline to lower than normal for the time of year.
In the south and east, rainfall has not replenished groundwater stores, with levels now declining.
While there is no threat to public water supply, these conditions are putting particular pressure on agriculture.
Farmers in East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire have reported they are facing significant pressures with irrigation.
Decline in water available
The National Drought Group (NDG) meeting, which took place earlier this week, highlighted how Environment Agency monitoring has shown a decline in water available.
There were discussions about how the water companies can help farmers during the growing season, particularly in the east of England.
Environment Agency Chief Executive, Sir James Bevan met with the NFU to agree the action needed to support farmers as well as conserve water supplies if the dry weather persists.
The union urged farmers to consider how they could be affected by running out of water and to make plans, where possible, to manage water shortages.
Safeguard food production
The EA set out a number of steps at the meeting. These include allowing farmers to flex abstraction licence conditions to take more water in order to safeguard food production and animal welfare.
So far in 2019, 90% of requests from farmers have been approved.
Another step mentioned is the extension of the licence trading map from East Anglia to Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, East Midlands and West Midlands, to help abstractors look for opportunities to access other abstractors’ unused water.
Finally, the Environment Agency will continue to work with the NFU, CLA and AHDB to hold advice sessions for farmers since January 2019.