From Friday 10th June hosepipes and sprinklers will be banned in the North Sussex area, the first time the company has imposed restrictions since 1996.

Figures from the Met Office show that most of the UK has had a dry spell spanning seven months from November to May, with the south receiving little more than half the normal amount of water needed to fill reservoirs, rivers and underground sources.

Southern Water’s Weir Wood reservoir, near East Grinstead, which is key to the North Sussex supply area, is half empty. At this time of year it is usually close to full. The problems are compounded by the fact that Weir Wood relies entirely on rainfall and, unlike other reservoirs, cannot be filled by pumping extra water from rivers and other sources.

The Environment Agency issued warnings over summer droughts as early as March this year (see related story). The south is particularly at risk for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it has had the lowest amount of rainfall compared to other parts of the country. In addition, the dense population puts enormous pressure on resources while the large urban surfaces prevent rainwater reaching the underground aquifers which store the water.

About 70% of Southern Water’s supplies come from groundwater as opposed to northern areas where more water is taken directly from rivers.

Water UK has warned that other parts of Europe are also currently suffering from drought, with Spain and Portugal having imposed water rationing and farmers expecting low harvests as a result (see related story).

By David Hopkins

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