4:53pm Monday 27th February 2012
By Lauren May
A wildlife charity has warned of "impending catastrophe" for wildlife after an official state of drought was announced in Surrey.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' announcement came after Surrey and the Thames Valley suffered two of the driest years since records began in 1984.
Wildlife Aid Foundation in Leatherhead is already bracing itself for the "devastating" effect it will have on wildlife.
Simon Cowell MBE, founder and director of the charity, said: "Last year was bad enough. You may remember the forest fires that occurred throughout the region. We'd had barely a drop of rain for weeks on end, and it wasn't long before we saw the terrible consequences of that dry weather in the huge numbers of malnourished and dehydrated baby animals that were brought into our Leatherhead wildlife hospital. "
The charity is asking people to be on the lookout for struggling animals and to leave out a shallow dish of water in their gardens for small animals such as hedgehogs.
He added: "In the circumstances I am not sure how we are going to cope, as we are chronically overstretched even without a large additional influx of patients. We are the only wildlife hospital in the area and one of only a few in the whole of southern England."
Experts are warning the dry spell could last some time with water levels at the River Wey was ‘notably low’ at just 47 per cent of its historic long-term average after rainfall in January was only 65 per cent of the average. Thames Valley takes around 70 per cent of the 2.6bn litres of water it uses each day from rivers and 30 per cent from underground bore holes.
Richard Aylard, sustainability director for Thames Water, who provide water to Epsom said: "We have had one of the driest two-year periods since records began in 1884. Our reservoirs are all virtually full and leakage from our network at its lowest level ever. But river and groundwater levels are already mostly exceptionally low and it is impossible to predict how much longer this already very long dry spell will last. So we are preparing for the worst, while of course hoping for the best, and we really do now need everyone's full cooperation in saving water, to make sure there is enough to go round."
For more information on saving water and free water saving gadgets visit thameswater.co.uk/waterwisely For more information and to report an injured or orphaned animal visit wildlifeaid.org.uk or call their 24-hour emergency number on 09061 800 132
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