Despite the rain, the Mole in Surrey looked more like a gravel road than a river.
Several deep pools still exist along its course, with the river’s normally healthy fish populations now being eaten away by the lowest water levels many on the river can remember.
After holding out until the last minute, the Environment Agency has now decided to wade in and rescue the fish from some of the fastest disappearing pools and move them to other parts of the river.
Joe Kitanosono, EA’s fisheries officer, said they thought twice before going in.
“We looked at every other option,” he said.
“We can see the level won’t improve even with the rain we just had.
“Then we have to take the final step of getting rid of the fish.”
Easier said than done.
His team uses a technique called electric fishing where an electric current is passed through the water to temporarily stun fish.
One man waved his electric hooves across the water, several others waded behind, catching fish.
The fish are then shoved through the bucket to a tank filled with oxygenated water.
It was a drastic step. The fish were stressed from lack of oxygen and high temperatures in the small pools in which they had been kept for weeks.
Handling them out of the river only makes them more stressful. About 20% of the discarded fish may die. But that’s much better odds than they were on the river.
And compared to the situation on other rivers up and down the country, the fish in the Mole River is a blessing.
The River Wye on the Wales/England border is a case in point.
It is home to some of our most vulnerable fish populations, such as trout and sea trout that have to migrate the length of the river.
The salmon there had been dead for weeks, not only because of the reduced water and oxygen levels, but also because of the level of pollution. As the water level decreases, the concentration of pollution increases.
We joined Marian Wilding Jones, one of the scientists from a citizen network that monitors pollution levels in the Dore River, a tributary of the Wye.
Things have gone bad on the river for a while, lined up by cattle and poultry farms, adding to existing pollution from sewage works. But drought has made them worse.
According to her measurements, levels of phosphate – a key pollutant – were eight to nine times higher than the target level.
“It became quite distressing and almost a full-time job,” Ms. Wilding Jones said.
She is pleased that the Environment Agency is now using her data for surveillance.
The agency has been criticized for inadequate pollution monitoring in Britain’s rivers, an absence that was even more noticeable during the drought.
In a statement, the Environment Agency told us: “We need to improve the water quality and ecological health of our rivers and monitoring plays an important role in this.”
It said it has spent more than £180 million on environmental monitoring since 2016, adding: “We have also put new requirements on water companies to strengthen monitoring. their surveillance significantly.”
However, campaigners say key agencies need more support to tackle the scale of the problem.
Jamie Audsley, chief executive of the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “It is not enough.
“Our main regulators, the Environment and Natural England Authority, are underfunded.
“We need action from politicians, from regulators and use the key points of our legislation around the Environment Act to have targets that ensure that in terms of wastewater production , agrochemicals and actually, storm surge, those are held to be reasonably accountable over the long term.”