Hosepipe ban hits 8 million

Britain's biggest water company, Thames Water, yesterday announced an indefinite hosepipe ban from 3 April in response to one of the worst droughts in 100 years. Breaking the ban will incur a £1,000 fine.

Thames Water said it had been forced to introduce the ban - its first for 15 years - because of two consecutive winters of below-average rainfall in the South-east.

Jeremy Pelczer, chief executive of Thames Water, said: "We have to be prudent and introduce measures that will make best use of limited supplies."

The Environment Agency welcomed the ban but said areas of Kent and Sussex could see standpipes in the streets for the first time since 1976. This month ministers granted Folkestone and Dover Water powers to install compulsory meters in homes.