Hosepipe bans prompt water use warning as region faces drought threat
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Households are being urged to help head off the threat of hosepipe bans, by doing their bit to get us through the dry summer.
After two water companies announced restrictions, others are warning they may need to follow suit if the sustained dry weather and high demand continues.
The last eight months have been the driest since 1976 and last week the Environment Agency announced East Anglia was now in ‘prolonged dry weather’ status, the first of four drought categories.
Last month’s record-breaking heatwave saw the region receive around four per cent of the long term average rainfall.
Anglian Water said they are not anticipating having to bring in restrictions this year - but warned the autumn and winter would need to restock supplies.
It has already urged customers to use water wisely even without restrictions, including ditching garden sprinklers, paddling pools and cleaning cars.
On a normal day, the company supplies roughly 1.1 billion litres across the East of England, but as temperatures peaked at over 40 degrees last month this soared to 1.6 billion litres, a record amount sent to customers’ taps.
A spokesperson said: "Despite a very dry year so far, our reservoir levels are stable, at around 80pc full, and our groundwater sources are in reasonable shape too, so we're not currently planning on any hosepipe bans this year," but added river levels were being closely watched.
"Although one dry winter doesn't give us cause for concern now, we also need to make sure we conserve enough water for tomorrow, next month and next summer too.
"Certainly if we have a second dry winter this year, we won't be in the same position next spring," the spokesperson said.
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The region’s water comes from a 50/50 split, with half from rivers and reservoirs and half from groundwater sources.
River flows and some groundwater levels are ‘below normal’ in parts of the Broads and in East Suffolk, the Environment Agency said.
Abstraction licence holders in the affected areas may receive notice to restrict the amount of water they can take, it added.
Alison Parnell, the agency’s drought manager for East Anglia, said: “We continue to monitor our key river, groundwater and reservoir sites using telemetry, and are liaising with water companies to understand any emerging concerns.
“We are also working with farmers, businesses and other abstractors to manage water availability and ensure that they get the water they need to be resilient while maintaining our protection of the environment.”
Southern Water and South East Water are the only companies to so far impose hosepipe bans meaning they cannot be used to water gardens or clean cars, and ornamental ponds and swimming pools must not be filled.
The moves to curb water use come after England has seen the driest eight-month period from November 2021 to July since 1976, when much of the country struggled in extreme drought.
Last month was the driest since 1935, Met Office figures show.
The hot, dry summer is not only affecting the UK it is also parching much of Europe. The Dutch government, for instance, has declared a national water shortage.
The European Union's executive warned last month that the continent is facing one of its toughest years when it comes to natural disasters such as droughts and wildfires because of increasing climate change.
Prepare for more dry summers
The dry summer comes amid warnings the UK must better manage water demand for a changing climate.
Prof Kevin Hiscock, a hydrology and water resources expert from the University of East Anglia, said climate change meant summers were expected to become warmer for longer.
Measures ranging from companies' continued investment in reducing water leaks, longer-term planning to increase reservoir capacity, campaigns to install water meters, planting woodland and restoring wetlands all have a part to play.
He said: "We can all make a difference by using water wisely during a drought, for example restricting our use of hosepipes for watering the garden or washing the car.
"In the longer term, harvesting rainwater for outdoor use, installing water-efficient domestic appliances and, if not already installed, getting a water meter, all help to manage our individual water demand."