The first emergency measures to support the drought-hit south of England were announced today in an attempt to preserve dwindling water supplies.
Seven firms – Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East – jointly announced the introduction of water restrictions
from April 5, just before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
They said it was a result of two unusually dry winters which have left waters well below normal levels.
The bans will forbid hosepipes and sprinklers from being used for gardening, washing cars, filling pools and for fountains.
The emergency measures were introduced as water companies and farmers, as well as businesses and consumers, were all urged to take action now to protect water supplies from a prolonged drought, according to a report published today by the Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency’s 'Drought Prospects' report warns that the drought could spread as far north as East Yorkshire and as far west as the Hampshire Wiltshire border, if the dry weather continues this spring. The whole of the south east and east Anglia are already in drought.
The report calls on water companies to follow their drought plans, show that they are reducing leakage from their networks, consider sharing water with neighbouring companies, and encourage their customers to use water wisely now, which will put them in a better position for the summer.
The agency is also advising farmers to look for ways to share water resources by setting up water abstractor groups and to take steps now to improve water efficiency
The Environment Agency report found that if dry weather continues into spring, it could mean, among other things that there will be less water available for livestock, especially housed pigs and poultry, there may be a greater risks to the environment and wildlife and the increased risk of woodland fires.
Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said: "We are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to meet the challenges of a continued drought. Our report urges water companies, farmers and other businesses to look again at ways to improve short-term water storage, share water resources where possible, and reduce the amount they and their customers use.
"A prolonged drought will have long term impacts on wildlife and habitats. The Environment Agency is actively monitoring the environmental impact of the drought and will take action to mitigate these impacts wherever possible."
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman added: "The recent Drought Summit highlighted the threats of another dry winter to various parts of the country, but more areas are likely to be affected unless there is significant rainfall in the coming months.
"We can all help reduce the effects of drought by being smarter about how we use water. Taking action now will help us all in the future."Like this story? Please subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter at the top of the page for more content like this.Related content: