'Dry winters' lead to hosepipe ban

 


Millions of households will have hosepipe bans by Easter, water firms announced today as the Environment Agency warned of "severe drought" in the coming months.

Seven water companies across southern and eastern England are bringing in hosepipe bans from April 5, following two unusually dry winters which have left reservoirs, aquifers and rivers well below normal levels.

The move comes as the Environment Agency said the drought, which has already gripped the South East and East Anglia, could spread as far north as East Yorkshire and as far west as the Hampshire-Wiltshire border if the dry weather continues.

And with sufficient rain to boost low groundwater and river levels unlikely in the coming weeks, a report from the agency said it was "anticipating a severe drought in spring and summer 2012".

The drought is likely to impact on vegetable, fruit and salad growers and livestock farmers, hit wildlife in rivers and wetlands and could prompt woodland fires.

Power stations which need water for cooling and water-intensive industries such as concrete manufacturers could also be affected, the drought prospects report warned.

Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East will all have restrictions on water use in place before the Easter bank holiday.

Last month the water companies warned that hosepipe bans were on the cards, as the Environment Department (Defra) declared the South East had joined most of East Anglia in a state of drought.

Shortly afterwards, the rest of the Anglian region went into drought.

The Environment Agency said rain in March had been welcome but not enough to reverse the impacts of two consecutive dry winters for the affected regions.

It said it was concerned about the situation at Bewl and Darwell reservoirs in Kent, Ardingly in Sussex, Pitsford reservoir in Northamptonshire and Rutland Water.

And the lack of rain had left river and groundwater levels extremely low across southern and eastern England from the Dorset coast to Grimsby - with areas to the west and south-east Yorkshire also at risk of drought.

Industry body Water UK said all seven companies were set to bring in hosepipe bans and would be consulting on who, if anyone, should be exempt from the restrictions - for example vulnerable customers and businesses.

Around 20 million people could be affected by the restrictions, but Water UK said taking steps to reduce use now would mean there was more water available for people and the environment in coming months.

Thames Water is to impose a hosepipe ban on all its 8.8 million water customers in London and the Thames Valley. It acknowledged that the move would not be popular, but it would conserve water and put the needs of families first.

It said groundwater levels in the region were close to the lowest ever recorded, and many tributaries of the River Thames are running very low, particularly the River Pang, which is running at a third of average flows in Berkshire.

The river, home to Wind In The Willows' Ratty, has dried up entirely upstream of Bucklebury for seven miles north to its source at Compton.

Southern Water said it was bringing in a ban on hosepipes and sprinklers for domestic customers in Kent and Sussex, for the first time since 2005/2006.

The use of hosepipes and sprinklers will also be banned for watering public parks and allotments, as well as for filling swimming pools, paddling pools, ponds and fountains.

Anglian Water is imposing its first hosepipe ban for more than 20 years on its 4.2 million customers, but said the move was the "most sensible and responsible action" to safeguard customer supplies this year and beyond.

Peter Simpson, managing director of Anglian Water, said: "Our region has had its driest 18 months for a century, including two dry winters which have robbed us of the rainfall we need to refill rivers, reservoirs and aquifers."

Portsmouth Water said it had not been as severely affected as other areas but was still calling on customers to show "voluntary restraint" in their water usage in the coming months, as it warned a lack of rain could lead to hosepipe bans.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "These temporary restrictions will help protect the public's water supply in the areas most affected by the record low levels of rainfall we have experienced over the last 17 months.

"We can all help reduce the effects of drought by respecting these restrictions and being smarter about how we use water."

The move to bring in hosepipe bans was welcomed by environmental groups and angling organisations, which said water demand during dry conditions put a huge strain on wildlife, rivers and the countryside.

They renewed their calls for more water metering and changes to the processes for abstracting water from rivers to use water more efficiently and protect nature.

The National Farmers' Union said drought could have significant impacts on production of vegetables such as potatoes in some parts of the country and some growers were reporting production was being "seriously affected".

But NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind said it was difficult to predict what impact this would have on prices.

Growers were taking steps to be "smart" with water use to meet orders, and increased production in wetter parts of the country could compensate for some shortfalls of potatoes and other vegetables in drought-stricken areas, he said.

"There's a big gap between the prices farmers and growers receive for their crops and retail shelf prices, so there's no immediate cause for alarm by consumers," he said.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Sport
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
sport
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
Sport
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
News
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales - OTE to £45,000

£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a leading supplier of bu...

Recruitment Genius: Installation Engineer - Driveway

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative, fast growing f...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Project Manager - Technical

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Jun...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral