Round the clock water squad keeps North West’s farm animals in the drink

A dedicated water squad has helped keep thousands of thirsty farm animals hydrated this summer after record-breaking weather threatened to leave them high and dry.

United Utilities’ 24-hour crew delivered water into livestock troughs, tanks and ponds in some of the region’s most remote and inaccessible locations.

More than 80 farms from Cumbria to Cheshire had a helping hand.

Using an array of specially-procured bowsers, storage units and huge water tankers, engineers topped up supplies to around 100,000 chickens, 8,000 cattle, 4,000 sheep, 200 horses, 90 goats - not to mention donkeys, deer, a handful of ducks and geese and two alpacas.

Adam Briggs, Lancashire County Adviser for the National Farmers Union, commented: “Drought has a huge impact on farmers and this is particularly the case for those with livestock who have private supplies. We received calls from farmers whose private sources were running low and were at a loss what to do. Their main concern was for the welfare of their livestock. The support offered by United Utilities in dealing with these situations was critical and a huge help to the industry.”

United Utilities’ Head of Regional Services, Andrew Cawley, said animal welfare was a major concern for engineers already working hard to manage water supplies during the warm dry weather.

According to the Met Office, 2018 was the driest start to a UK summer since modern records began. By carefully managing supplies, including moving water around its huge regional pipeline network, United Utilities successfully avoided the need to impose temporary restrictions on its customers. But low rainfall, combined with unprecedented demand for water caused by the hot temperatures, temporarily affected some farmers’ own private water supplies, or their ability to get water to the highest locations.

Andrew Cawley added: “At its peak, demand for water across our region this summer was the highest we have ever seen. This meant that water pressure was occasionally slightly lower than some people were used to. Most people wouldn’t have noticed the difference, but a few farmers with extensive networks of private pipes, sometimes experienced problems getting water to remote locations, like water troughs in high fields.”

Although United Utilities guarantees a minimum water pressure at every customer’s meter, the pressure from that point onwards depends how much further and higher the water has to travel along the customer’s own pipes. For most people, it isn’t very far. But for farmers, often at the extremities of the water network, their own pipes can stretch a long way beyond the meter to reach locations in remote fields or high places.

Andrew Cawley added: “In most cases, the effects could be rectified quite quickly, but where farmers needed help fulfilling their duty of care for their livestock, even if they were not our customers, we did our best to help. Our dedicated team was on hand to give advice and deliver non-potable water suitable for livestock use only wherever necessary. We received positive feedback from the farmers we helped and would hope this would be a benchmark for the way we deliver dry weather support to rural areas if something similar happened in the future.”