Wimbledon and Lords to truck in water to beat drought

Thames Water, which controls water supplies in London, is to apply for sweeping powers to ban sports grounds, parks and private clubs from watering their pitches and grounds this summer.

The ban could force Wimbledon to buy in water or cut back the matches for this summer's championships. England's Test matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka could also be affected, officials at Lord's say.

Thames Water has warned that the capital's water supplies are close to crisis point, after a 16-month drought in southern England. The Government's senior advisers predict privately that there is a "very good chance" of a total ban on "non-essential" water use across the city.

The situation has worsened because Thames Water's underground aquifers are severely depleted, and are now less than half full. Londoners are also ignoring a ban on using sprinklers and hosepipes on cars and gardens.

The company is anxiously waiting to see if rainfall levels in April are higher than normal because this is the last month of heavy average rain levels.

But Met Office forecasts show that April is likely to be drier and warmer than normal. "It's a critical month," a Met Office spokesman said.

A spokesman for Thames Water confirmed the company would move quickly to seek an order banning all non-essential use of water.

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