The basic cause of all droughts is insufficient rainfall. Often this is prolonged over a period of several months or even years.
Short-term droughts, such as those experienced in the UK, can also be caused when high pressure systems persist over, or close to, the UK for a prolonged period.
This weather pattern blocks the usual passage of low pressure systems that bring bands of rain and showers, especially to western parts.
The Met Office monthly climate summaries show how the UK weather has varied in the past year.
The Met Office works closely with the Environment Agency, Government, local authorities and water companies to ensure the effects of droughts are minimised. We aim to help ensure that the UK manages the need for water of consumers, including farmers, abstractors, and other users, while protecting agriculture, horticulture and wildlife from damage.
As the UK's official weather service we have a statutory duty to:
The statutory body that has a duty to manage water resources in England and Wales. The Environment Agency:
Water companies are responsible for monitoring and controlling water supplies. When there is a drought they implement their Drought Plan, which outlines a series of actions that a water company can take to effectively manage the water resources available during a drought.
These can include:
Dr Richard Betts explains the different definitions of drought and what we might expect to see under climate change in our Climate change and drought video (YouTube).
Last updated: 21 February 2012