South East latest part of England officially in drought


Aerial footage of shrinking reservoirs

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Its drought time again. Time for water chiefs to suggest connecting up networks - again. They didn't do it last time, or the time before, or - you get the idea. They won't do it this time either. The drought will eventually pass and we can do this all over again in a few years time. Solution - fines for water companies failing to provide sufficient water so its cheaper to link networks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    It makes me so angry that these water authorities have the nerve to declare it as a drought when in truth there is MORE THAN ENOUGH water for everyone. The problem is, industry and manufacturing consume so much of our water pushing us into shortages so that each of us have to suffer the consequences. If you had any idea how much water a power station uses most people would be absolutly disgusted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    It really is depressing when the highest rated comments are against desalination, and the negative comments are for it (including my own). Especially when it seems to be about energy cost, and no one is catching on to the 'use renewable energy' part. It's not a 'maybe it could be done', it has been in WA Australia. A 100% self-sufficient desalination plant. Oh, and it created LOADS of JOBS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    My water rates have gone up this year from about £18 a month to over £23. And I'm in the north where officially our water levels are OK. What gives? Percentage wise that's huge rise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    I actually cannot believe such a small country as ours does not have an interconnected water system. The north can't pump to the south? Well as long as they can transfer money and flat pack furniture around the country.. The insanity of uncheck capitalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Never mind - they can drink champagne

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    This should be no surprise... more evidence that South East and London cannot support itself as it stands. The flow of energy from power generation.. North to South.. and now people mention a water national grid?! That Boris suggested demonstrates what a stupid idea it is, and he south is too arrogant to change its ways,... Darwins theory may prevail however..

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    We are an Island and it rains twelve mothns a year.
    UK Government - Doh!
    It's like not being able to get a drink in the proverbial brewery :-/

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I have a suspicion that this is being much exaggerated in order for the water companies to get away with outputting less water at higher cost to the consumer as usual. At utilities companies do it all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Lots of jobs for people on bikes carrying water from the North and West to the SE.. Tebbit what a great brain!! and from the best that education can offer in the UK.

    Does that tell you that we are not educating our people to think but just to follow dogma and bow and scrape to those with power over us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    it wont be long before dave and the rest of the crew manage to steal the water form north of watford, hell theyve raped the north so much already, why not the water

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Will have to drink beer now - as long as it's imported from France, Belgium, we won't have enough water to make it....

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I do hope we are not going to be patronised all year with water-saving tips. Put the price up, and people will use less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Armagh-geddon 89 - For your information there is NO Benefit that covers Water Bills since the privatisation of the Water resource and abolition of the old Water Boards. The only people on Benefits who can use as much as they want are the same as people who aren't on Benefits, viz who are not on Water Meters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Desalination plants? You've got two hopes.One of them is Bob.

    Some haven't really grasped that our country was sold to the highest bidder (or whoever could pull the right strings).

    You are now an asset to be stripped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    #94 Bill Walker.
    "acceptable flow on a gradient of 0.1%, that is a drop of 1 metre per Km"

    Tha's the problem with a North/South pipeline. You'd only get 0.36 metres per kilometre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.


    So it's the unemployed who are to blame for the water shortage?

    Jeez! Heard it all now!

    My tip for today: Avoid water, drink beer, it's much safer (and probably in more plentiful supply)

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    A small ingedient to make people feel angry. The Victorian age has finally caught us up. The 2main problems are, lead water pipes are now weeping thru age and leaking all over the place, and 2. nobody knows where they are. Its the ones in the road leading to the pavement which is the mystery not the ones from the stopcock to the house but even these could be leaking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Just now

    Bad management lack of investment and strategy but lots of profit they don't have a water shortage in Dubai and it hardly never rains there

    They have de-salination plants instead.
    Shed loads of money
    A river that runs into the Arabian Gulf.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Interesting, the Greens do not like Sydney's desalination plant at Kurnell.


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