A serious drought has hit Britain and its due to get worse later this year. The worst hit area is the South East of England, where around one-fifth of Britain's 60 million people live. 2005 was the driest year in Britain since 1973.

The Times May 16, 2006

Tough curbs on water use as drought hits Britain
By Valerie Elliott and Lewis Smith

This reservoir in South East England has almost dried up.

Scotland and Northern Ireland not included in the survey.

MILLIONS of people face queueing for water at standpipes within months as the Environment Agency gave warning yesterday of the worst drought in a century.

Thames Water, which supplies eight million people in and around London, was told by the agency to apply for a drought order immediately. Southern Water and Mid Kent Water, which between them serve 1.24 million customers, have already applied for drought orders and are ex- pected to get them within a fortnight.

Anyone flouting drought orders can face a fine of up to £5,000 in magistrates’ courts or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court. Seven water companies, all in the South East where shortages are most acute, already have hosepipe bans. An eighth, Essex and Suffolk, was told to impose one by the end of the month.

The drought order ban applies to filling swimming and paddling pools and watering all public parks and spaces, golf courses, cricket pitches and other sports grounds.

Householders may continue for now to use a watering can on their gardens but this will be reviewed if the drought con- tinues and water is not saved.

Rainfall across Britain has been below average for the past six months while London and much of southern England have experienced the driest 18 months in the past 74 years.

Reservoirs are mostly full after recent rainfall but groundwater stocks, which form the bulk of household supplies, are even lower in some parts of the South East than they were before the 1976 drought.

The first drought order banning non-essential use of water was authorised by the Government yesterday for the 270,000 homes and businesses served by the Sutton and East Surrey water company, which supplies about 650,000 people. The order takes effect on May 27, just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend.

The Horticultural Trades Association released figures last night suggesting that the water restrictions would cost the industry £300 million this year. The statistics were based on a reduction in summer bedding plant sales from £400 million to £320 million, a £20 million drop in other plant sales from £200 million to £180 million and a general cutback in spending at garden centres from £2 billion to £1.8 billion.

A spokeswoman said that the association had appealed to ministers because water curbs would cause “extreme hardship to garden centres and growers”, especially after two difficult years of trading.

Ian Pearson, the Environment Minister, ordered the water company to impose curbs sensitively and to minimise the threat to any business. Car washing with a bucket and cloth and any other method that is not linked to mains supply continues to be allowed. The exteriors of buses, trains, aircraft and boats may also be cleaned in the same ways.

Commercial car wash firms that recycle water and save 23 litres per vehicle cleaned can apply for an exemption.

Window cleaners have also been given a special exemption provided that they use buckets or a system not attached to the mains supply.

The cleaning of the outsides of offices, factories and public buildings may also continue though this will also be banned if the drought persists.

Similar emergency controls are also expected soon for a million customers of Southern Water and 240,000 customers in Mid-Kent. A spokesman for the Sutton and East Surrey company said that it was doing everything possible to find extra supplies for golf clubs and other sports grounds. One option is to clean up some contaminated water going into the River Eden.

A Thames Water spokesman said that it was urgently assessing the need for emergency conservation measures.


Groundwater, used for 70 per cent of supplies in the South East, is at record lows and falling

Thames Water loses 200 million gallons of water every day because of leaks

Standpipes were last used in Britain in 1976

2003 was the first time ever recorded that the temperature surpassed 100 Farenheit in any part of Britain.

2005 was the driest year since 1973