Hosepipe bans: Final four companies lift restrictions
The final four water companies in England with hosepipe bans in place have lifted them, in a move affecting about six million domestic customers.
South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Veolia Water Central and Veolia Water Southeast imposed the restrictions on water use in April.
They followed two dry winters but end after "abnormally heavy rainfall".
Meanwhile, the Festival of British Eventing in Gloucestershire has been cancelled because of the weather.
And farmers have warned that the supply of home grown fruit and vegetables could be severely hampered by the ongoing wet weather.
Surface water in some parts of the UK has prevented producers from gathering crops, such as peas, and that tonnes are being left to rot in the fields.
Water officials said they had expected the bans to remain throughout the summer.
Anglian Water, Southern Water and Thames Water lifted their bans in June.
The announcement comes after a weekend in which a number of communities across Britain were hit by flooding following torrential downpours, and forecasters warn there is more rain on the way.
The four water companies said ground water supplies, which they were heavily dependent on, had recovered enough for the bans to be lifted.
Between them they cover all or part of a number of counties in the south and south-east of England, including Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.
Double the normal average amount of rain for June fell last month, and April was the wettest since records began more than a century ago.
In a joint statement, the four firms said: "The companies would all like to thank their customers for complying with the restrictions and supporting their plea to use water wisely.
"This has kept demand for water well below levels normally experienced at this time of year.
"Significant - or indeed any - recharge of underground resources at this time of year is most unusual but it follows the abnormally heavy rainfall experienced since spring which has finally brought to an end the severe drought after two dry winters."
Mike Hegarty, operations director for Sutton and East Surrey Water, said the hosepipe ban had been expected to be in place throughout the summer.
"The recharge in the aquifers brought about by the abnormally heavy spring rainfall is most welcome," he said.
"Normally winter rainfall recharges the aquifers. The recharge is unprecedented and is the highest increase in water levels ever recorded in our area at this time of year."
However, Mike Pocock, water resources manager at Veolia Water Central, struck a note of caution and urged customers to continue to use water wisely.
'Summer on hold'
"While most welcome, this recovery in the aquifers does not remove the underlying problems caused by the drought and we are continuing to plan for the possibility of a third dry winter," he said.
The development followed deluges that prompted weather and flood warnings over many parts of Britain at the weekend.
Heavy rain brought flash flooding to areas of West Yorkshire for the third time in just over two weeks on Monday.
Parts of the Calder Valley, including Hebden Bridge, saw a month's worth of rain fall in three hours.
The Environment Agency said 80% of river flows were now above normal or higher, with reservoirs showing a good recovery and just 11 groundwater sites below normal water levels - and two "exceptionally low".
A spokeswoman said: "The threat of drought this summer is now no longer on the cards, but if we have another - a third - dry winter, we're going to need to look at whether drought is possible for next summer."
Polly Chancellor, Environment Agency national drought co-ordinator, said: "We remain vigilant as another dry winter could see a return to low water levels next year.
"We are working with water companies and others to put plans in place to reduce the impacts on people and the environment should this happen."
A flood warning means immediate action is required, and a flood alert means people should be prepared for possible flooding.
BBC weather forecaster Sarah Keith-Lucas said summer was still on hold, with a rainy, cool and breezy week ahead.
The co-organiser of the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park, Captain Mark Phillips, said that the "unprecedented rainfall" over the last month had produced "exceptionally wet ground conditions".
He added: "We did everything possible to ensure that the event took place but sadly the hard-working ground crew have been defeated by the weather."