Drought could spark hosepipe ban
Consumers and farmers are facing increasing water restrictions after a state of drought was declared in parts of England.
The Government said Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and western Norfolk were suffering from drought, after England experienced the driest spring on record.
In addition, parts of the South West, South East, Midlands and Wales are experiencing near-drought conditions, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
The growing crisis prompted calls for Government action to better manage water resources in the UK.
The demands came as fears were raised of imminent hosepipe bans in Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Severn Trent Water warned customers they may face water restrictions unless rainfall levels return to normal soon, although other water companies are not predicting the need for such moves
But a growing number of farmers are facing restrictions after another month of scarce rainfall in swathes of eastern England this May left some areas experiencing "intense" drought conditions.
In its latest monthly summary on UK rainfall, river and water levels, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) said that a substantial proportion of eastern England saw less than a fifth of the normal levels of rainfall in May. While northern parts of the UK experienced "plentiful" rain last month, most of it did not reach central and eastern England, compounding the previous two dry months, CEH said.
England had its driest spring in records going back 100 years, while England and Wales together had their second driest March to May in the record books.
The Environment Agency has already asked nearly 100 farmers to stop abstracting water in drought-stricken areas, while 200 farmers in Suffolk face restrictions by the end of June.
With large parts of England facing drought, Friends of the Earth called for action to protect water resources, including stronger water efficiency standards for businesses, homes and appliances and tougher action on leaking pipes.