Water company looks to rivers as drought spreads

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North West Water is to seek legal permission to take extra water from several rivers in order to combat the drought.

On Monday the water company, which services Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire and Cumbria, is also likely to bring in a hosepipe and sprinkler ban - unless there is heavy rain in the meantime.

But North West, the second largest of the privatised water companies serving more than 2.5 million homes, said it had no plans to implement the kind of drought order neighbouring Yorkshire Water is seeking.

If granted by the Department of the Environment, Yorkshire's order would ban the use of water for private swimming pools, parks, sports grounds and the washing of cars in and around Bradford and parts of west Leeds, an area with 600,000 inhabitants which already has a hosepipe ban. A public inquiry into its application continued yesterday.

North West has already formally applied for permission to pump water from the Derwent to supply 500 people living in the village of Grange, in Borrowdale - usually one of the wettest places in England. The stream which supplies the village's treatment works has run too low. Now it has sounded out the Department of the Environment on submitting applications to take extra water from up to eight other rivers while the drought continues.

About 2 million people in England live in areas covered by hosepipe bans, mainly in Cornwall, Sussex and Yorkshire.

The Government's water pollution and conservation watchdog, the National Rivers Authority, yesterday joined the chorus of condemnation of water companies which leak huge quantities of water from their mains. Yorkshire and North West are among the worst offenders, losing 26 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.