Southern Waters has become the first mainland UK utility to announce drought measures, including a hose line ban, following record temperatures across the country.
A hose pipe ban is imposed in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to protect the River Test and River Itchen as they become depleted due to lack of rainfall. Around 1.5 million people are said to be affected by the measures.
Government sources say this could be the first of drought measures to be announced across the UK as water levels in reservoirs and rivers fall. Drought measures have not been implemented in much of England for more than a decade.
According to the Met Office, July 2022 was the driest July in England since 1911, with just 24% of the average July rainfall.
Southern Water is imposing temporary access restrictions for customers in the affected areas and will be the first such action in the region since 2012.
dr Alison Hoyle, Southern Waters Director of Risk and Compliance, said: “We did not take this decision lightly and recognize that the temporary ban will have an impact on our customers.
“We are working with the Environment Agency to ensure we are acting responsibly to protect our environment. We are asking everyone in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to help by supporting these actions and using only the water they need.
“We are experiencing one of the driest years in more than a century and we have seen record temperatures. The river flow is about 25% less than in July, equivalent to the loss of more than 25 million bathtubs of water.
“We ask our customers to help protect our rivers and the habitats that live there by reducing water use. We believe a temporary ban on use is a responsible and important step to reduce water withdrawal from Test and Echen.
The use of hoses to water gardens or clean cars is not permitted under this measure and may not be used to fill ornamental ponds and swimming pools.
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Earlier this week, the government held a drought emergency meeting with farmers, water companies and other stakeholders to coordinate responses.
Britain has experienced a record drought with the lowest rainfall since the 1970s.
Last week’s record-breaking heat flooded the ground, prompting farmers to increase irrigation for crops and the rate of evaporation from waterways.
Farmers may be prevented from watering their crops during the critical August-September period, particularly root vegetables such as potatoes, which are at risk. Lack of water can damage crops and dry soil can make harvesting difficult.