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Hosepipe bans in seven water areas
Millions of householders across southern and eastern England will be banned from using hosepipes from Thursday as drought grips parts of the country.
Seven water companies are introducing restrictions on water use following one of the driest two-year periods on record, with domestic customers facing a £1,000 fine if they use their hosepipe in defiance of the ban.
Thames Water, Southern Water, South East Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East are bringing in the restrictions, affecting about 20 million people.
Customers will no longer be able use their hosepipes for watering their gardens, washing cars or boats, hosing down patios and paths and filling swimming pools, ponds, fountains and paddling pools. Public parks and allotments will also be hit.
The firms insist the restrictions are necessary to preserve essential water supplies and protect the environment, in the face of drought which has left groundwater below 1976 levels in some places and rivers running dry.
Despite some rain in the past few days, March was another dry month and the whole of the South East and East Anglia and parts of Yorkshire are officially in a state of drought. Yorkshire Water has said it does not anticipate bringing in hosepipe restrictions as yet.
The Environment Agency said most reservoirs were now below normal levels and river flows were decreasing. All rivers are experiencing lower than normal flows, with two-thirds "exceptionally" low.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "These temporary restrictions will help protect the public's water supply in the areas most affected by the record low levels of rainfall we have experienced. We can all help reduce the effects of drought by respecting these restrictions and being smarter about how we use water."
Shadow environment minister Gavin Shuker said: "The hosepipe ban and water restrictions are further bad news for households worried about the weather. We have seen the driest 12 months on record and drought conditions will become more common in future.
"Lack of water could mean food prices go up, wildlife will suffer and, in the worst case, construction and energy industries affected. The Government needs to stop dragging its feet and legislate for the long awaited reforms we need to protect our water supply."