Water-saving drive cuts consumption

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Last week's late silly season story was that the Essex and Suffolk Water company was considering towing an iceberg from the Arctic to tackle the drought which has led to all 1.7 million of its customers being placed under a hosepipe ban.

It's not true. But the early success of an intensive programme of propaganda and practical help among 1,400 homes in a Chelmsford suburb may have real lessons for an industry which may be facing another drought summer next year.

The Meteorological Office said that with September almost over, England was likely to have less than half the long-term average rainfall for the month. The shortfall has been greater in the rainfall-starved South-east.

The Government's Environment Agency warned yesterday that groundwater levels in aquifers and river flows were falling, and far below the average for the time of year.

This summer, Essex and Suffolk pioneered Britain's first house-to-house water saving campaign. Out of 1,800 households approached in Moulsham, Chelmsford, 1,400 agreed to a visit by sub-contractors hunting for leaks and offering free water-saving devices. More than two-thirds of them then had devices fitted which cut the volume used to flush lavatories. Garden water butts were given to 186 families and more than 250 had dripping taps re-washered or other leaks repaired.

Helen Cansik, Essex and Suffolk's forecasting analyst, said: ``We think we've cut water consumption by 6 to 10 per cent in this area."