England declares emergency drought, mandates conservation

Thanks to 18 months of below-average rainfall, English officials have declared the country to be in an emergency drought. Homes and businesses in southeastern England face criminal prosecution and $9,000 or more in fines for nonessential water use like filling swimming pools or watering golf courses. Ironically, golf courses are staying luxurious thanks to, um, pelting spring rains. “I know it’s strange to look out the window and see rain [during a drought], but the problem is with the groundwater,” says the Environment Agency’s Lisa Beechey, who notes that a hot, dry summer could possibly lead to England’s worst drought in a century. Water companies are encouraging conservation and discussing options: Ship in water from Scandinavia in converted oil tankers? Build a desalinization plant to make the Thames River drinkable? Tow an iceberg to England? Some critics suggest that fixing water companies’ old pipes, which leak 951 million gallons of water a day, might be helpful too.