ENVIRONMENT: Dry December means drought

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The Independent Online
It may be winter, but Britain is in the grip of a lengthy drought. Rainfall in December was 49mm - half the normal amount - and in some places, January has so far been the driest on record for 250 years. The Environment Agency said yesterday that the lack of rain was affecting river levels, while water companies said reservoirs were below normal.

A spokesman for Anglian Water, whose area is traditionally the driest of all, said: "We need about an inch of rain - that's the equivalent of a foot of snow - every week until the end of March."

Thames Water dated the beginning of the continuing drought as April 1995. "December rainfall in our region was 31 per cent of average and north London was just 22 per cent." The Institute of Hydrology said the period of April 1995 to December 1996 was the driest sequence since 1767, with rainfall 22 per cent below normal.