Drought status ended in 19 areas
Parts of England are no longer in drought following the wettest April on record and continuing rain this month, the Environment Agency said.
Drought status has been lifted for 19 areas in the South West, the Midlands and Yorkshire after heavy, persistent rain boosted river and reservoir levels, reducing pressure on the environment and water supplies.
Water companies in those areas are unlikely to impose hosepipe bans on customers this summer, the Environment Agency said.
Groundwater levels are still low across the country, and parts of East Anglia and the South East remain in drought with hosepipe bans in place.
England's biggest water company, Thames Water, said it could rule out applying for a Drought Order allowing it to impose more serious restrictions on water use following the weeks of heavy rain. But the firm warned its 8.8 million customers in London and the Thames Valley that it was too early to lift the hosepipe ban imposed early in April.
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."
Drought status has been lifted for South Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, parts of Gloucestershire, parts of Hampshire, most of Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.
River flows have gone from below normal levels at all sites in March to notably or exceptionally high levels this week in almost half of the spots monitored by the Environment Agency. Water stocks in many reservoirs are recovering after the wettest April in records dating back more than 100 years, the latest drought update from the agency revealed. But despite the situation easing in many areas as a result of the rain, groundwater supplies remain exceptionally low at two-fifths (42%) of monitored sites. Many are still at similar levels to 1976 when England was gripped by prolonged drought.
Environment Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster said: "The recent record rainfall has eased pressure on water resources in some parts of England, helping levels in rivers and reservoirs to recover and providing relief to farmers, gardeners and wildlife. The Environment Agency will continue to keep a close eye on the situation. Low groundwater levels remain a concern across many parts of England, with many still at a similar level to those in 1976 and unlikely to return to normal levels before the winter. A return to a long period of dry weather would increase the risk again."
Parts of East Anglia - whose water is supplied by Cambridge Water, Essex and Suffolk Water and Veolia Water East - are also no longer classed as in drought, following the review by the Environment Agency. There are no water restrictions in place for their customers.