Homeowners warned to only use dishwashers and washing machines if full as summer droughts loom

Sarah Knapton
Southern Water has been pumping water into Bewl Water Reservoir near Lamberhurst, Kent - PA

Homeowners are being warned to cut down on water consumption by only using washing machines and dishwashers when fully loaded, amid fears that Britain’s reservoirs are drying up.

Since last Summer, some parts of the UK have seen half of the usual level of rainfall, leaving areas facing the prospect of droughts and hosepipe bans.

October to March has been the driest in the UK for more than 20 years, and the Environment Agency has been in contact with water companies to warn that the coming months are also likely to be drier than usual. April saw just 41 per cent of average rainfall across the country.

Major providers including Southern, Affinity and Thames Water said they were monitoring the situation closely and advised homeowners to take steps to avoid wasting water.

Householders are being advised to use a bucket and sponge, rather than a hose to clean the car, swap baths for four minute showers, and start planting drought resistant bedding plants such as Alyssum, Geraniums,  Marigolds and Petunias.

Hosepipe bans could be implemented in the summer if the dry weather continues  Credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

A spokesperson for Affinity Water, which supplies 3.6 million people in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent and London, said: “Since July 2016, our region has received just over half of the normal rainfall that we would usually expect,

“Due to the low rainfall many rivers across the Southeast of England have seen flows decrease.

“Our ground water sources have also been affected by the low rainfall, which is where 60 per cent of the water we supply to our customers comes from. We are encouraging our customers to save water to help preserve supplies and minimise the possibility of restrictions this summer.”

The south east of England has been severely affected by lack of rainfall in recent months. Middlesex got just 2.6mm of rain, which is just six per cent of the county’s long term average of 45mm.

Southern Water which mainly covers Kent, Sussex, Hamsphire, the Isle of Wight said it had pumped river water into its Bewl reservoir, on the Kent, Sussex border, to help raise levels,

A spokesman said: “We’re continuing to monitor the situation closely, with clear plans in place to make sure we’re fully prepared, should the relatively dry weather continue in the months ahead.”

The dry weather has been caused by high pressure weather patterns with fewer than half as many severe storms which usually replenish waterways. Although downpours over the Bank Holiday helped raise levels slightly, the dry weather looks set to continue, with settled weather and higher than usual temperatures predicted for much of May.

Heavy showers over the bank holiday helped replenish reservoirs but water levels are still low  Credit: Alamy Live News

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said that below-normal river flows and groundwater levels are likely to prevail over the next three months in Southeast England, and could be very low in some places.

A spokesman for The Environment Agency said: “Following a dry winter, some rivers, groundwaters and reservoirs are lower than normal for the time of year.

“We always advise that everyone use water wisely – especially during a period of dry weather -  and to follow the advice of their water company should water saving measures be required.”

A spokesman for Thames Water said: “Across much of the country the winter was drier than usual and it hasn’t rained much so far this spring.

“This has meant low groundwater levels in some places, which is a concern for communities that rely on underground water supplies. Most of our customers’ supply comes from rivers so we’re closely monitoring their flows and will have a clearer idea of our position in the early summer.

“As always, we encourage customers to use water wisely, whatever the weather.”

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