Hosepipe ban looms for south-east England

 

The prospect of hosepipe bans in the coming weeks was looming for parts of England today as drought was officially declared in the South East.

The region joined parts of eastern England which have been drought-afflicted since last summer, as two dry winters left some rivers and groundwater supplies at levels lower than 1976.

The drought was declared by the Government as the Environment Department (Defra) convened a summit of water companies, farmers and wildlife groups to discuss potential water shortages in England.

Following the summit, companies in the South East warned that water restrictions such as hosepipe bans may be needed to ensure essential public supplies are maintained throughout the summer.

The spread of drought prompted warnings from green groups that England's water supply system was failing to work effectively to conserve water and protect the environment.

And there were calls for householders to save water in the face of the dry conditions.

The water companies said they were "not running out of water", but without a dramatic improvement in the situation, with significant rainfall in the next few weeks, they will have to implement measures to tackle drought.

The South East has experienced the driest October to January in the region since 1992, with around 73% of expected rainfall, the companies said.

Since October 2010, the region has had only four-fifths of the long-term average rainfall, leading to a "huge cumulative shortfall" in the rain needed to replenish the groundwater aquifers that supply much of the region's water.

The lack of rain continued last month, with the South East receiving two-thirds (66%) of the long-term average rainfall for January.

In the Thames Valley and London, rainfall has been below average for 18 of the last 23 months.

Some companies have already been granted or applied for drought permits or drought orders to refill reservoirs. The worst affected, Ardingly reservoir in West Sussex and Bewl in Kent, are around two-fifths of their normal levels.

In eastern England, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and west Norfolk are still in a state of drought, which was first declared in those areas last summer.

The Anglia region saw its driest ever September to January period.

A number of rivers in eastern and southern England are at very low levels, with some drying up completely in places.

Speaking after the summit Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Drought is already an issue this year with the South East, Anglia and other parts of the UK now officially in drought, and more areas are likely to be affected as we continue to experience a prolonged period of very low rainfall.

"It is not just the responsibility of Government, water companies and businesses to act against drought. We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now."

Thames Water's sustainability director Richard Aylard said the lack of rain had led to very low levels of groundwater, needed to keep rivers flowing, and things were "going to get worse" without significant rainfall in the next few months.

A recent survey of Thames Water customers revealed almost half (45%) thought it was unlikely or very unlikely the region would face a drought this year, prompting the company to urge people to think about their water use.

Mr Aylard warned: "There is a high chance we will need restrictions at some stage this summer unless either we get a lot of rain or fantastic co-operation from customers using less water."

Thames Water says people can save supplies with simple measures, such as turning off the tap while cleaning their teeth or taking shorter showers, fixing leaks and only washing full loads of laundry.

The RSPB warned that wildlife could be hit by the continuing dry conditions, while the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) called for farmers to get a "fair share" of water to ensure food crops are not affected.

CLA president Harry Cotterell also called for the Government to extend permitted development rights to allow the building of on-farm reservoirs, which would help during droughts in the future.

The Royal Horticultural Society issued advice to gardeners to save water and protect plants in the drought.

The RHS recommended digging in lots of compost or mulch to help retain moisture in soil, putting in new plants when they are small to make them more resilient to dry conditions, mulching in plants after they have been planted, and picking the right plants for particular soil conditions.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
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

Teaching Assistant in secondary school Manchester

£11280 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Teaching a...

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits