Sussex could face severe drought restrictions this summer which may include bans on non-essential usage or even the introduction of standpipes in the street, water firms warned.

The hosepipe bans currently in place across the region are almost certain to remain for the rest of the year.

Little rainfall is predicted up to mid-spring and even if there are severe April showers, by then it may be too late to restock the water table.

The two main water companies in Sussex, Southern Water and South-East Water, said it was too early to say what kind of water-saving measures would be needed.

But Tony Lloyd, head ranger for Southern Water, said this was the worst dry spell for 100 years.

He said: "I do not know what happens if this drought goes on.

We already have hosepipe bans, but if it is a dry summer then it could mean standpipes, drought orders, bans on nonessential use of water, restrictions on things like car washes."

Southern Water, South-East Water and the Environment Agency have called on the Government to force developers to build water-saving features into new homes to conserve future supplies.

A national Code for Sustainable Homes has been drawn up by the Officer of the Deputy Prime Minister and is out for consultation.

Water firms and environmentalists want it to be made compulsory within the construction industry so each new household uses up to 30 per cent less water.

At the moment reservoir levels are far lower than they should be for this time of year.

Weir Wood, near East Grinstead, is 36 per cent full compared to its usual 89 per cent.

Bewl, near Wadhurst, is 36 per cent compared to an expected 84 per cent. Darwell and Powdermill, near Hastings, are 68 and 76 per cent full respectively.

Consumers have been warned of the need to conserve water.

A South-East Water spokeswoman said: "We are very much at the mercy of the weather. We have hosepipe bans in Sussex and Kent. They are likely to last for the foreseeable future. The usual recharge period is October to April. We would expect to see rainfall. We haven't yet.

"There could be a continuation of the hosepipe ban.

"Businesses and local authorities could be restricted."

A Southern Water spokeswoman said the firm was upgrading pipelines and arranging to pump water from Hampshire to Sussex to try to avoid standpipes in the street.

She said: "We can't rule them out. We are needing 60 per cent more rainfall to bring the services back up enough."

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: "The Met Office is predicting the dry weather will continue.

"Once it gets to the end of March, it is too late.

"We are expecting hosepipe bans to continue throughout the year. If people don't save water there is a much bigger risk of us running out."