Action taken to tackle low river levels in North East's driest spring and early summer since 1996

The Tees area in particular recorded its driest 12 months up to July since 1976.  Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Millions of litres of water are being pumped into the River Wear from Kielder reservoir, as the North East copes with prolonged dry weather.

After the fifth consecutive month of below average rainfall and the driest spring and early summer since 1996, river flows and reservoir levels are below normal in most parts of the region.

The Tees area in particular recorded its driest 12 months up to July since 1976. 

The Environment Agency is working with Northumbrian Water to maintain the health of the region’s rivers.

As part of the Kielder Transfer Scheme, around 30 megalitres of water per day were moved through the Agency's Frosterley outfall for 12 days at the end of July - the first time a Tyne-Wear transfer has been made in 16 years.

The transfer started again on Thursday afternoon (11 August) due to low river levels at Chester-le-Street.

The Agency also requested Northumbrian Water make additional releases from Kielder reservoir into the River Tyne to maintain oxygen levels in the estuary to support salmon migration in the country’s top salmon river.

Almost 12,000 fish were counted moving upstream during July, the highest July total on record.   

The River Tyne is the the country’s top salmon river. Credit: Environment Agency

They’ve worked with holders of 35 abstraction licences to issue ‘hands off flow’ conditions, which means licences holders have been told that river levels are low and as a result abstraction must stop to protect the environment. 

Rachael Caldwell, Environment Agency Area Environment Manager in the North East, said: “River flows across most of the North East are low after a prolonged period of dry weather, and with the warm weather set to continue we expect levels will continue to drop.   

“We’re looking at the impacts of dry weather across the region to make sure we can act to preserve water for wildlife and people as we experience extreme weather conditions.   

“We are taking action alongside Government, water companies, environmental and angling groups and farmers to manage these impacts, such as operating water transfer schemes and managing abstraction licences.”