Water levels improve at Widewater Lagoon after ‘unusual and extreme weather’

Members of World of Widewater community and conservation group at the lagoon in Lancing
Members of World of Widewater community and conservation group at the lagoon in Lancing

The heatwave this summer has seen water levels at Lancing’s Widewater Lagoon reduced to their lowest point in recent memory.

Residents said it was the driest they had ever seen the nature reserve’s lagoon, with water at the west end disappearing completely in early July to reveal the cracked earth below.

Secretary Jo Procter at the lagoon where dry areas are still visible

Secretary Jo Procter at the lagoon where dry areas are still visible

However water levels have improved with the last cycle of high tides, with water returning to the west end.

Members of the World of Widewater community group are confident that the lagoon will recover with time.

Jo Procter, secretary of the group, said: “All that can be done during this unusual and extreme weather is being done and we hope to see a gradual improvement over time.”

During the dry period, officers at West Sussex County Council have been providing double monitoring of the water levels and the salinity of the lagoon.

As a landlocked tidal lagoon, Widewater relies on an Environment Agency mitigation pipe for the flow of water into the lagoon.

Inside the pipe are weir boards which can be removed or inserted to help with water levels.

The water levels are also replenished naturally by rainfall.

In recent weeks, the Environment Agency has removed excess shingle from the mitigation pipe and up to four weir boards so that sea water can enter the lagoon on lower high tide cycles.

Since it rained at the weekend, routine monitoring has indicated that salinity levels have been positively affected by fresh water entering the lagoon.

A county council spokesman said: “In the prolonged hot weather we have increased our monitoring of the site and action has been taken to ensure that water levels are topped up on lower high tide cycles via the mitigation pipe to try and prevent the lagoon and the wildlife from drying out completely.

“To date this action has been successful.”

Wild life has been tolerating the conditions, with shoals of fish and crabs visible in the lagoon.

Wading birds are taking advantage of the shallow waters and the resident mute swan family is thriving, the spokesman said.

Despite the improvement, the continuing hot, dry conditions may see levels fall again due to evaporation.

Residents are being advised to put out water bowls for the garden wildlife.

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