Drought fears grow as Thames seek order

Hot weather exacerbates water problems with five million people to be affected by new drought order being sought.

Fears are growing about the impact of water shortages in the South East after Thames Water sought a drought order this week. Bromley council head of parks Patrick Phillips is concerned the order could lead to a “huge loss of income” from sports facilities. Palmstead Nurseries in Kent reports in the first Horticulture Week Drought Watch poll that some customers, typically smaller landscaping firms, are delaying work until autumn. Public awareness of the situation is high because of the recent hot weather, which is forecast to continue next week. Thames Water, which imposed a hosepipe ban on 3 April, has been under pressure from the Environment Agency to join Sutton & East Surrey Water, Southern Water and Mid-Kent Water in obtaining further restrictions. Only Sutton & East Surrey Water has invoked its drought order, with the other two suppliers monitoring the situation. A drought order extends hosepipe ban restrictions to cover commercial operations, but garden centres and nurseries are exempt because they are classed as market gardens. It could take DEFRA up to eight weeks to process Thames Water’s application. Thames Water chief executive Jeremy Pelczer said the restrictions could be required by August. Standpipes and water rationing remain a “possibility this year”. HTA representative Erica Harper said gardeners need to be told they could continue using a watering can because there were no additional watering restrictions. Over coming weeks, Horticulture Week will run regular Drought Watch reports from businesses hit by the water crisis.

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