Reservoirs soak up the summer excess: Above average rainfall has boosted the country's water supplies. Lynn Eaton reports

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S poor summer may have been bad news for holiday makers, but it is good news for the water companies. Reservoirs are full to overflowing for the first time in years.

For four years, people in some of the areas hardest hit by the recent drought, including Kent and Three Valleys, which covers Hertfordshire and parts of Essex, have had to live with hosepipe bans. But this year they can sprinkle the lawn to their hearts' content - if it is not raining already.

Rainfall so far this summer has been slightly over the average for the time of year, helping the country's water supplies, which are mainly dependent on winter rainfall.

The winter before last (December 1991 to March 1992) only half the average amount of rain fell for the period. But over autumn, winter and spring 1992-93, the rainfall was well above average, allowing depleted reserves to build up again.

The National Water Services Association said that nearly all reservoirs were 100 per cent full: 'It's absolutely brilliant. We've had a very wet winter. It's really good for us.'

Anglian Water, which includes the Rutland reservoir and covers one of the driest areas in the east of England, said reservoir levels were 'satisfactory'.

'We wouldn't expect them to be full at this time of year,' Anglian said. 'Through the summer they usually go down a little, but they are well above the normal summer levels.'

South West Water said that compared with previous years, its supplies were in good shape: 'The majority of our reservoirs are full or fairly close to it.'

Mid Kent, which relies on underground streams for most of its water supply, said the above average rainfall last autumn brought the water levels up to 90 per cent, two months before expected. Current levels were at 80 per cent. 'It's not been hot and sunny, but we haven't had any rain,' an official said. At the lowest point of the drought, water supplies in the area were down to 30 per cent of the average.

Thames Water told a similar story: 'It was a pretty wet winter for everybody, but good for us. It will certainly see us through this year.'

July rainfall was about 130 per cent of the average for the last 30 years and only July 1988 has been substantially wetter, according to the National Environment Research Council.

The drought, which started in 1989, was a result of dry weather from November 1988 to March 1992, when rainfall over eastern and South-east England was only 80 per cent of average.

It led to hosepipe bans in 1990 covering 20 million people and warm summers in 1991 and 1992 meant 6.5 million people were covered by a hosepipe ban in August 1992.

The Irish economy is counting the cost of one of the wettest summers in recent memory, with some grain yields down by 40 per cent on 1992 levels. Special EC concessions are being sought to soften the blow on hard- pressed communities, from livestock farmers and potato growers in the North-west to the market gardeners of north Dublin.

(Graphic omitted)