Hosepipe bans in 2013 'extremely unlikely' say water firms

The risk of hosepipe bans next year has tailed off after water companies agreed they were "extremely unlikely" to impose restrictions across rain-drenched Britain.

The Environment Agency said torrential rain throughout late spring, summer and autumn had topped up levels of groundwater following a dry early spring that had caused them to fall dangerously low, especially in the south-east.

"Rainfall from late spring onwards in 2012 has left most aquifers in these areas higher than normal for the time of year," said the agency in a report entitled Review of the 2010-2012 drought and prospects for water resources in 2013.

"As a result, water companies in the south and east of England think it is extremely unlikely that they will need drought permits or to impose restrictions in 2013," the report said.

"But as in any year, a very dry winter could lead to low river flows in places and limit the availability of water for farmers next year."

The report said water resources were "generally very healthy for autumn" after three years of exceptional weather. In many parts of England chalk groundwater levels were very high for the time of year and there was a risk of groundwater flooding.

Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster said: "It is too early to say whether the weather we’ve witnessed over the last three years demonstrates the climate is definitely changing.

"Between September 2010 and March 2012 many parts of England experienced the driest 18 months for over 100 years. In stark contrast this was then followed by the wettest April to September on record."

Key findings from the report include:

  • water resources are generally very healthy
  • groundwater levels in some of the sandstone aquifers in the Midlands are still exceptionally low - these aquifers are always slow to respond to rain and may not fully recover for 12-18 months
  • in April 2012 people in parts of England faced the possibility of the most severe drought since the summer of 1976
  • six months of record rainfall from April to September brought the drought to a rapid conclusion and led to considerable localised flooding
  • all sectors can improve their plans to manage the consequences of a severe drought - this drought has shown all interested groups the benefits of working together
  • it is important that everyone continues to use water wisely

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