After the driest two years ever recorded across London and the Thames Valley, seven rivers across the region averaged 33% of their normal flows, measured against the long-term average dating back to 1884.

The River Kennet in Wiltshire and the River Pang in Berkshire dried up completely along their upper reaches before Christmas, prompting fears of a worse drought this summer than 1976 and leading to Thames Water and six other water companies imposing hosepipe bans on April 5 to protect supplies.

Richard Aylard, sustainability director for Thames Water, said: “After all the recent rain we’ve had, it may be hard to believe but while the current account – our rivers and reservoirs – is looking very healthy, our savings account – the natural storage basins deep below ground – remains in the red in four out of the seven river areas.

“For our invisible underground supplies to return to normal we will still need steady rainfall this winter. Rain in spring and summer tends to get sucked up by plants, while winter rain soaks deep into the soil to top up the groundwater, which provides a base flow in our rivers throughout the year.

However, Mr Aylard added that the wet spring has been a welcome response to the dry months earlier in the year.

Mr Aylard said that the rain fall has safeguarded water supplies for Thames Water’s 9m customers over the summer and autumn.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, said: “The spring drought and the summer floods demonstrate that national water policy needs to allow us to store water better on the land by reducing upland drainage. We also need to invest in more reservoirs, particularly in the heavily-populated south east, where rainfall is usually quite low.

“Despite the higher flows at the moment, everyone should make every effort to save water as part of their daily routine, to ensure that all our reserves can recover to levels that offer security for future dry periods, and so that wildlife can thrive in rivers and wetlands.”

Leigh Stringer

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