South East latest part of England officially in drought


Aerial footage of shrinking reservoirs

Related Stories

Much of southern and eastern England is officially in a state of drought, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced.

The announcement came as Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman hosted a drought summit.

In parts of south-east England groundwater levels are lower than in the infamously dry summer of 1976.

Water companies are ready to bring in hosepipe bans from early spring, where necessary, Defra says.

The firms have agreed measures to reduce the environmental impact of dry conditions, including reducing water losses and improving leak detection, as well as encouraging customers to save water.

The Environment Agency will also take steps such as monitoring the impact of the dry weather on fisheries and wildlife.

Ms Spelman said after the summit: "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 as we continue to experience a prolonged period of very low rainfall.

'Use less'

"It is not just the responsibility of government, water companies and businesses to act against drought.

"We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now."

Places in drought

  • Lincolnshire
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Hampshire
  • West Sussex
  • East Sussex
  • Kent
  • London
  • Surrey
  • Berkshire
  • Hertfordshire
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • parts of Bedfordshire
  • parts of Northamptonshire
  • west Norfolk
  • east Gloucestershire

Source: Defra

Mary Creagh, Labour's shadow environment secretary, described the drought summit as being "more talk and no action".

"The Tory-led government is out of touch with the pressures facing families - the fact that it has postponed its long-awaited Water Bill means that there will be no action to tackle unsustainable water usage or to help households facing rising water bills for at least another two years," she said.

Water companies, farmers and wildlife groups were invited to discuss the situation at the summit.

Thames Water's sustainability director Richard Aylard said: "There is a high chance we will need restrictions at some stage this summer unless either we get a lot of rain or fantastic co-operation from customers using less water."

He urged people to turn off taps while cleaning their teeth, take shorter showers, fix leaks and only wash laundry with a full load.

The South East joins parts of eastern England which have been in a drought situation since last summer.

That contrasts markedly with Scotland, where reservoirs are between 93% and 97% full.

Ms Spelman said she wanted water companies to look at the possibility of connecting pipe networks so they could transfer water from wetter areas.

Severn Trent's water director, Andy Smith, said each water company had tended to focus on its own area.

"We should be looking at interconnecting the networks between the various water companies.

Low river levels

"There will be opportunities with relatively small levels of investment to make inter-connections between different organisations to try and get the water from the north and the west where it's relatively wet down to the south and the east."

The lack of rain, over the course of two dry winters, appeared to be continuing last month.

South-east England received just two-thirds of the long-term average rainfall for January.

Rainfall has been below average for 18 of the last 23 months in the Thames Valley region and London.

Flows in the River Lee, which passes through Hertfordshire and parts of north-east London, are at less than a quarter of the long-term average for the waterway.

And the Kennet, in Wiltshire, has seen flows of just 31% of its average levels.

The river has dried up completely to the west of Marlborough.

Meanwhile, the Darent, in Kent, is at extremely low levels, as is the Wye in Surrey.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    "I'm currently sitting here at work in a blue chip organisation. There's a pipe that's been leaking gallons of water outside the office for well over a week. The water company has just turned up."

    That's cos' they've discovered the new "groundwater" under your carpark and are going to sink a well!

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    At last the water companies are actively considering a water 'grid' after countless years of pouring cold water on it. A bit hard now they haven't got any. The 'grid' already partly exists, it's called the canal network and the water companies already plunder it. Now's the time to make proper use of it. Reservoirs should not be allowed to overflow into the sea during wet times. Bin HS2, do this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I wonder what contingency plans they have for the Olympics and the higher demand for water during that period.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    @ChrisINbath @nickburks @Paul et al.
    Offshore wind farms and wave generators located near the plants, make them self sufficient. Also the cost of this water is usually calculated using traditional energy resources.
    In building the plants we would be fixing the water issue and start the mass building of offshore energy farms so as the process is started it can be entended to power cities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Sadly I have to say water meters do sound like the answer, not only will they reduce demand but if water companies get paid based on how much they supply there will be more incentive for them to make sure enough water is available (for example by building those supply pipes rom the N and W).

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    There is already a desalination plant in East London, so these facilities alone won't be the solution. The simple fact is we've had a dry winter and all waste water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    The population is so heavily based in the East of the Island, it can hardly be a surprise.
    Spread the population centres, or the problem will become more acute. But not that I'm complaining, I like living in a small town.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Oh dear. Tory England can't look after it's water supply. Perhaps the Welsh should follow Scotland and call a referendum on independance.

    Just think of all the money to be made from the wwater shipped across the border from flooded Welsh Valleys.

    Wales water reserves could be worth as much as Scotlands oil reserves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The Kurnell desalination plant in Australia cost $1.896 billion dollars to build and uses a huge amount of energy. There is no way the UK could build a desalination plant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    @archBonkers09 - seriously! Using a drought as a reason as a reason to evict people? How about wasting less and profitable water companies taking more responsibility?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Redistribute the jobs and people - long term that would solve so many problems - might even make the South East a pleasanter place for those still living there - and those who visit.

    OK, the North would have to put up with a whole lot of Southerners migrating in, but if they bring *lasting* jobs and prosperity, perhaps parts of the North would cease to feel like a deprived colony of Great London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Well, we have water by the bucket load, here in Scotland!

    (Pun completely intended) :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    This whole sorry saga is spectacular in showing the total incompetence of the water companies and OFWAT in planning and maintenance.

    I DEMAND compulsory water metering for all before they are allowed to raise the price to pay for this mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    How about folks use less water and water companies deal with leaks as a starting point. As for shipping water across country, thats major infrastructure, take years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    "high chance of a hosepipe ban this summer, unless there is heavy rainfall or a marked reduction in the use of water by customers"
    I cant help wondering how this has affected share prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    We are an island (overpopulated island) surrounded by water and always have been so I don't understand why something hasn't been done sooner. Oh yeah this is UK.

    It's just another ploy for the water companies to raise bills even higher with the promise of a more efficient water supply. Its been happening for years and as with anything, us British just suck it up so shareholders can be paid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Look at the picture accompanying this article. Nice to see the environment secretary and her pals enjoying a few jugs of water in the whilst discussing the drought, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    #24 TBailey
    Desalination looks promising till you examine the costs. Mains water currently costs around 45p/cubic metre at your tap. Desalinated water would cost £1/cubic metre at your tap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Sounds like that it would be a good idea to bring funds intended for HST2 to rebuilding the canal infrastructure, and move water from the wet North to the parched South!


Page 22 of 24


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.