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Drought drags on but tougher restrictions are watered down

Published: 11 May 2012 12:152 comments

PLANS for a full blown drought order have been watered down after a month of record rainfall.

Mill Lane in Sindlesham was shut earlier this month when heavy rainfall caused flooding

The hosepipe ban will remain in force across Berkshire and the south east but Thames Water has ruled out more stringent restrictions this year in the wake of the heavy rain which drenched the area throughout April and into the opening days of this month.

Today's Thames Water announcement came after the Environment Agency removed drought status for 19 English counties but confirmed that London and the South East are still in drought, with groundwater levels in some areas still lower than in 1976.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water's sustainability director, said: "It is a great relief for us that we can now rule out seeking a Drought Order this

year.

"No water company wants to impose restrictions on its customers for any longer than absolutely necessary. Despite all the recent rain, we still

have a serious groundwater shortage, and we could yet have a long hot summer, so, much as we'd love to, it would be irresponsible for us to lift

the hosepipe ban just yet."

Some boreholes in the Thames region are still at exceptionally low levels and monitoring will continue for some time to check how much of the

past month's rain has found its way deep enough underground to top them up.

Thames Water is planning for a potentially third dry winter in succession and promises an update for its 8.8m customers early next month.

The company is reviewing how the Temporary Use Ban is operating and investigating how it can minimise the impact on businesses which rely on water for their livelihoods.

Last month was the second-wettest April on record in the Thames region - with 262% of long-term average rainfall recorded - but groundwater feeding rivers all the year round from its natural underground stores remains exceptionally low.

Mr Aylard said: "Although the current account, in our reservoirs and rivers, is in good shape at the moment, the savings account, deep below ground, is still in the red."

He added: "In normal years, with good winter rainfall that seeps into the ground, the groundwater provides the base flow in our rivers throughout the rest of the year. If we have another dry period we currently do not have that safety net. Until the groundwater recovers, our water resources will remain finely balanced, which is why our Temporary Use Ban must remain in place and why it's more important than ever that we all continue to use this precious resource wisely."

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