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Eastern England's drought may spread, says minister

Parts of Britain face a drought next year unless there is a very wet winter the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, warned yesterday.

Drought which has already hit areas of eastern England, after one of the driest springs on record, could continue and spread to other areas, such as the South-east, if sustained winter rainfall does not replenish water levels, Ms Spelman said.

Her warning came as South East Water applied for a drought order to help refill Ardingly Reservoir, where levels of usable water are now at just 12 per cent. Its application followed Anglian Water being issued with a drought permit allowing it to refill two of its reservoirs from rivers now, in an effort to avoid hosepipe bans next year.

The moves were a warning of the need to take action "after the country has seen the driest 12 months since records began," said Ms Spelman.