South West and Midlands given drought status where growers taking the strain

Seventeen counties in South West England and the Midlands have moved into official drought status the Environment Agency announced today - but hosepipe bans in these areas are unlikely as public supplies have been affected less severely than in the South East.

Instead, growers are bearing the brunt of the impact in these areas where the drought is primarily causing problems for crop production, the agency said.

The news comes as officials warned that the drought could last beyond Christmas.

Experts are now hoping for a steady rainy winter in 2012/13 to restore rivers and groundwaters, but the Environment Agency is working with the water industry to put plans in place now to deal with the prospect of a third dry winter.

Water companies are looking at where they may be able to get more water, options to share water across company boundaries and how they can reduce leakage further.

The Environment Agency is urging all water users to save water now, to help prevent more serious shortages and environmental impacts next year.

Trevor Bishop, Head of Water Resources at the Environment Agency, said:

"A longer term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely – and we are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought.

"While we’ve had some welcome rain recently, the problem has not gone away, and we would urge everyone – right across the country – to use water wisely now, which will help to prevent more serious impacts next year."

Regions impacted

The South West region covers:

•    Cornwall
•    Devon
•    Dorset
•    Somerset
•    Bristol
•    South Gloucestershire
•    Parts of Hampshire
•    Most of Wiltshire

The Midlands region covers:

•    Nottinghamshire
•    Leicestershire
•    Derbyshire
•    Staffordshire
•    West Midlands
•    Warwickshire
•    Shropshire
•    Worcestershire
•    Herefordshire
•    Gloucestershire


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