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Published March 13, 2012 08:52 AM

Drought-hit England announces first wave of emergency measures

The first emergency measures to support the drought-hit south of England were announced today in an attempt to preserve dwindling water supplies.


Seven firms - Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East - jointly announced the introduction of water restrictions from April 5, just before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

They said it was a result of two unusually dry winters which have left waters well below normal levels.

The bans will forbid hosepipes and sprinklers from being used for gardening, washing cars, filling pools and for fountains.

The emergency measures were introduced as water companies and farmers, as well as businesses and consumers, were all urged to take action now to protect water supplies from a prolonged drought, according to a report published today by the Environment Agency.

The Environment Agency's Drought Prospects report warns that the drought could spread as far north as East Yorkshire and as far west as the Hampshire –Wiltshire border, if the dry weather continues this spring. The whole of the south east and east Anglia are already in drought.

The report calls on water companies to follow their drought plans, show that they are reducing leakage from their networks, consider sharing water with neighbouring companies, and encourage their customers to use water wisely now, which will put them in a better position for the summer.

The Agency is also advising farmers to look for ways to share water resources by setting up water abstractor groups and to take steps now to improve water efficiency.

The Environment Agency report found that if dry weather continues into spring:

* In the east, central and south east of England fruit, vegetable and salad growers may be affected, and there will be less water available for livestock, especially housed pigs and poultry;

* There is concern that boating on the Oxford and Grand Union Canal could be restricted during the main boating season (April – October) and the levels of the Kennet and Avon Canal could be at risk;

* There may be greater risks to the environment and wildlife, with plant and animal species being lost, at least temporarily, from freshwater and wetland sites, pollution incidents having an even greater impact on rivers, and the increased risk of woodland fires.

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