MILLIONS of litres of extra water is being transferred into Essex to keep reservoirs topped up.

The Environment Agency which manages the Ely Ouse transfer system, said while the Ely Ouse and River Cam are in a developing drought status, there is enough water in the system to make these transfers.

The agency said when there is less water available the flow will decrease.

In early June the rates of transfer to the River Pant were reduced to 35 million litres a day. But because of wetter conditions in mid and late June the amount of the water transferred into Essex has increased to up to 119 million litres a day.

The Environment Agency, which manages the scheme to divert water into the Rivers Pant and Blackwater, says the decision was as a result of recent rainfall.

Essex is the driest county in the UK. During a dry year, insufficient water is available from within Essex to meet customer demand.

Since the 1970s, Essex has relied on transfers of water from the Ely Ouse to fill Abberton and Hanningfield reservoirs, which between them hold 66,000 megalitres (1million litres) of water.

Under the scheme, surplus water which would otherwise flow into The Wash, is transferred to fill the reservoirs via the Pant and Blackwater.

While the amount of water has increased to meet Essex’s needs the Environment Agency has also warned of tightening restrictions on farmers’ ability to abstract water.

Abstraction licence holders in the most affected areas are likely to receive notice to restrict the amount of water they take as described in their licence conditions.

This may include taking reduced quantities or only abstracting at particular times.