Developing

Record Rain Ends Drought In English Counties

Parts of England are no longer in drought following the wettest April on record and continuing rain this month, the Environment Agency has said.

Counties in the South West, the Midlands and Yorkshire saw the status lifted after downpours boosted river and reservoir levels.

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.

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.

"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."

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "If an area is no longer in drought, the public shouldn't have the possibility of hosepipe bans or other temporary restrictions hanging over their heads, which is why Defra and the Environment Agency have been continuously monitoring and reviewing the drought situation.

"But we cannot forget that Anglia, London and the South East are still in drought and still experiencing water restrictions.

"That's because even the record rainfall we had in April and the prediction of more wet weather in May won't make up for the water shortages in these areas caused by two extremely dry winters."