South East England officially in drought

South-east England is officially in drought and hosepipe bans could be imminent, environment secretary Caroline Spelman has announced following a meeting today.

Caroline Spelman confirms the South East is in drought - image: Morguefile
Caroline Spelman confirms the South East is in drought - image: Morguefile

Spelman met with water companies, businesses and trade groups including horticulture groups such as the HTA before making her announcement.

[See Reservoir and Groundwater Levels to 7 February]

"Drought is already an issue this year with the south east, Anglia and other parts of the UK now officially in drought, and more areas are likely to be affected.

"It is not just the responsibility of Government, water companies and businesses. We are asking for everyone to help and urging them to use less water and to start now."

Environment Agency presented an in depth analysis of the current drought situation at the summit, which led to talks on what action was needed.

Water companies agreed to co-ordinate temporary restrictions on water use, such as hosepipe bans, from an early stage in the spring where necessary.

The Environment Agency meanwhile said it would encourage growers to set up water abstractor groups and consider on-farm storage, and advise on spray irrigation.

In early March the agency will publish its latest drought prospects report, which sets out the areas that are likely to be affected by drought in spring and summer.

The report aims to help water companies, farmers and other water abstractors plan for the year ahead, and sets out actions these groups should take to help manage water.

Meanwhile a "call to action" from Thames Water urged its 8.8m customers to save water to coincide with a poster campaign by the utility firm.

"Our region, covering the Thames Valley and London, has received below-average rainfall for 18 of the past 23 months," said sustainability director Richard Aylard.

"Meanwhile 2010-2011 was the third driest two-year period since records began 128 years ago, and many of our rivers are running low as a result."

Current situation:

•    Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and west Norfolk are still in drought.
•    Shropshire and Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, East Sussex and Kent in our South East region are still affected by dry weather.
•    In the Anglian region groundwater levels remain exceptionally low. Soils in these areas are still not wet enough for widespread recharge to take place.
•    The Midlands region, Anglian region and South East region all received below average rainfall for January (79 per cent, 74 per cent and 66 per cent respectively of the long term average rainfall). It has been the driest ever five month period (September 2011 to January 2012) in Anglian region.
•    The driest 12 months between February and January ever saw 636mm of rain – between Feb 2011-Jan 2012 we had 774mm which is the 8th driest ever.

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