Thames withdraws drought order request after summer rain

This summer's near-average rainfall has eased the drought in the London area and eliminated the need for further water restrictions, Thames Water has said.

The company withdrew its drought order application, submitted to Defra last April, saying that the existing hosepipe and sprinkler ban is sufficient to tackle the effects of the on-going drought.

Thames Water’s environment director Richard Aylard said: “There is still a drought, but it isn’t getting any worse, and we don’t need to bring in any more restrictions beyond the existing hosepipe and sprinkler ban.

Rainfall typical of a “normal English summer” together with Londoners’ positive response to a publicity campaign asking them to save water have helped stabilize the situation.

Despite July’s heat wave, demand for water fell by 8% compared to a usual summer season, as Londoners collectively saved 258 litres of water a day.

Asking for a drought order had been a precautionary measure that factored in the time delay between making a request and Defra granting the order, which could take up to 12 weeks, he explained.

“The situation has changed since we applied for a Drought Order for London on 26 June. We took that decision as a sensible precaution, because there was a possibility that we might need to bring in additional restrictions,” Richard Aylard said.

Since the application, July and August have seen rainfall levels not far from average, bringing London reservoirs up to 78% capacity.

But Thames Water may make another drought order application in 2007 if the next winter proved as dry as the last.

The Environment Agency backed the company’s decision bur stressed that groundwater levels remain low.

Robert Runcie, the Environment Agency’s Thames Regional Director, said: “The drought isn’t over – but the close to average rainfall in July and August and people saving water has left London’s water supply in a far better position.

“However, the drought is still serious. Groundwater reserves remain well below normal across much of the Thames Valley following the last two dry winters. If we have a dry autumn and winter we could be in a difficult position again next year and Thames Water may need to reapply.”

Hosepipes and sprinklers will remain banned as the South East region awaits more rain to replenish groundwater and surface water supplies, Thames Water said.

Goska Romanowicz

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