Continued dry weather has meant British Waterways has already published details of overnight lock closures at locations across the Midlands and South that it hopes will help make the most of available water resources.
As some parts of southern and central England experienced the driest year on record in 2011, BW has already spent an additional £700,000 investment on 24 schemes to improve water resources for the main boating season.
The restrictions, come into effect on the Grand Union and Oxford Canals at the end of March, and see boat movements controlled in some key locations with gates being locked at the end of each day to minimise wastage through vandalism or paddles being left open. Similar measures will be in place on the Kennet & Avon Canal as groundwater levels fall.
And although the times of opening are already down to just four hours a day in some places it may get worse as BW says the restrictions will be reviewed throughout the season and adjusted where appropriate.
Vince Moran, operations director said: "We don't want to restrict opening times, particularly so early in the season, but I'm sure most boaters would recognise that this is an unusual year. That's why we're investing a significant amount of money on a package of schemes which are focused solely on maintaining navigation on the vast majority of the network throughout the main boating season.
"However it would be foolish of us to make this investment if we weren't then careful with the water that it yields and that's why we're implementing these restrictions at selected locations in order to ensure we use water sensibly and responsibly to see us through the summer".
The restrictions have been discussed with boating organisations, canal societies and waterway businesses. As a result BW has produced special maps showing the restrictions and the varying potential drought risk across the network as a tool to help boaters to plan their journeys.
Vince continues; "Boating should be a pleasurable experience so we'll ensure that boaters have access to a range of clear, accurate and up-to-date information to help them plan an enjoyable journey. And, of course, only a small proportion of the network will be affected so if boaters don't need to be in the South East then what better opportunity to explore another hidden corner of the nationwide canal system?"
The navigational maps will be updated on a monthly basis and published with reservoir reports at www.waterscape.com/features-and-articles/features/british-waterways-reservoir-watch.
The Shroppie, of course, is a canal that never runs dry, as we reported in the last issue - so why not come and join us and get plenty of water as well as the cheapest diesel and some of the best scenery in the UK?
For more news take a look at our e-magazine Norbury News at http://www.norburywharfltd.co.uk/norbury_news.htm