20 Feb 2012

Drought official in south east as hosepipe ban looms

Home Affairs Correspondent

Eastern areas of England are now officially in drought and as Darshna Soni reports, water firms are warning customers to expect restrictions this summer, unless there’s significant rain.

The prospect of hosepipe bans in the coming weeks is looming for parts of England as drought is 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.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman told Channel 4 News: “Unless we have significant rainfall over the next couple of months we are going to be facing very dry conditions – with an impact on farming and horticulture, and on the public water supply.”

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.

Drought levels in England reach 'crippling' levels with the last year recording the third driest two-year period since records began. (Getty)

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 per cent of expected rainfall, the companies said.