Hosepipe ban demanded to stem drought

A A A

Hosepipe bans for much of south-east England should be imposed immediately to limit the impact of one of the worst winter droughts on record, the Government's environmental watchdog has warned.

The Environment Agency has asked water companies in the South to ban hosepipes from next month to prevent more extreme measures being introduced this summer such as standpipes in the street and rota cuts in domestic supplies.

The agency said that the South-east was facing one of the most serious droughts for a century and water companies could not afford to be complacent about the low water levels in reservoirs and underground aquifers.

"Groundwater levels in some areas are the lowest on record and rainfall during winter has been the lowest since the drought of 1920-22," said Baroness Young of Old Scone, the agency's chief executive.

"We're seeing an impact on the environment, where fish-spawning in some areas has been poor, and we're concerned that we may soon see fish dying because of low river levels," Lady Young said.

Much of the country has experienced a drier-than-normal winter and, for the second consecutive winter, the South-east in particular has suffered exceptionally low rainfall.

The 15 months from October 2004 to January 2006 has been the driest period in the South-east since 1921, according to the Environment Agency.

Terry Marsh, a senior hydrologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), said winter rain was crucial to replenish underground stores which provide much of the drinking water for the South-east.

But the current drought is not likely to be as severe on a national scale as that of 1976, when much of the country had little or no rain for most of the summer after a dry winter, Mr Marsh said.

"In 1976 we had an extremely dry winter but now we've had two dry winters and it's most evident in a few chalk streams, where flows are currently just below those of 1976," Mr Marsh said. "We're seeing a drought that is pretty severe because it's not the sort of thing that happens every five years or so."

Mr Marsh supported the Environment Agency's call for stringent controls on water use such as a ban on non-essential activities such as washing windows and watering parks.

"If you're facing climatic circumstances that are as bad in some parts as anything we've seen since the 1930s, then restrictions in water usage are an appropriate response, both to preserve stocks for the public supply and to protect the environment," he said. A hydrological report by the CEH and British Geological Survey found that rainfall in January across much of the country was less than 40 per cent of normal levels, with some parts of the South less than 20 per cent below average.

"Last year, the same period was only marginally wetter and, taken together, they closely match 1962-64 as the driest successive November-January periods since 1932-34," the report said.

"Substantially drier 15-month periods have been recorded for England and Wales (such as in 1975/76 and 1933/34) but a distinguishing feature of the current drought is the disproportionate contribution of the winter months to the overall rainfall deficiency," the report continued.

"Correspondingly, the impact on reservoir and aquifer replenishment and on river flows has been severe in many areas."

Winter rainfall soaks through the soil to refill aquifers that have been depleted during the summer months.

With just a few weeks of winter left it is unlikely that there will be enough rainfall to avoid a summer drought in many parts of the South-east.

How it will affect wildlife

TREES AND WOODLAND: A summer drought after a winter drought will put all trees in danger.

GRASSLANDS: Most grasses die during droughts but can recover once the rain returns.

BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS: Most species do relatively well in a summer drought.

GROUND BEETLES: Some do well while others will be more affected by the drought.

SALMON: Adult salmon stay lower down river in droughts, which means mortality rates are higher.

Life and Style
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
news
Environment
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultants - IT - Trainee / Experienced

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40-50K first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Primary teachers needed for supply in Huntingdon

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers need...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

KS2 Teacher Plymouth

£21500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone