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UK drought: Which areas have warnings after latest alert?

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By Ben Turner
People walk across the dry cracked earth at Baitings Reservoir in Ripponden, West Yorkshire, Britain, Friday August 12, 2022.
People walk across the dry cracked earth at Baitings Reservoir in Ripponden, West Yorkshire, Britain, Friday August 12, 2022.   -   Copyright  Danny Lawson/PA via AP   -  

Drought warnings have been issued across large parts of England as extreme temperatures sweep the country. 

The UK's Environment Agency identified eight areas affected by prolonged dry conditions, with some water usage restrictions in place. 

It comes as England experienced its driest July since 1935 with rainfall totals classed as "exceptionally low". 

Eight out of 14 areas in England have been affected by the drought alerts announced on Friday. 

Drought warnings have been issued in:

  • Devon and Cornwall
  • Solent and South Downs
  • Kent and South London
  • Herts and North London
  • East Anglia
  • Thames
  • Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire
  • East Midlands
Euronews
This map shows the eight areas of England that are affected by Friday's drought warningEuronews

Water usage restrictions and hosepipe bans

The Environment Agency has urged people in affected areas to be "very mindful" of pressures on water resources. 

It said that the warning would involve water companies stepping up actions to manage the situation. 

Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people around London, has said it is planning to announce water use restrictions next week. 

A company spokesperson said: “The prolonged hot weather and ongoing lack of rain has meant that we are now planning to take our drought plan to the next stage which is to introduce a temporary use ban. We anticipate announcing the details next week.

"In the meantime we continue to urge our customers to only use what they need for their essential use."

South East Water, which supplies homes and businesses in Kent and Sussex, introduced a hosepipe ban "until further notice". 

The company wrote on its website: "The demand for water this summer has broken all previous records, including the Covid lockdown heatwave."

Yorkshire Water, which services 2.3 million households in northern England, has announced a hosepipe ban to begin on August 26 despite not being affected by the Environment Agency's drought warning. 

Drought definition

A drought is caused by periods of low rainfall but the UK's Environment Agency says it doesn't use a single definition for droughts

However, it has four categories used to identify and manage a response to dry weather conditions. These are: 

  • Prolonged dry weather – this period is characterised as the early stages of drought where we find there has been a period of dry weather and this is impacting on river flows, groundwater levels and water levels in lakes and reservoirs.
  • Drought
  • Severe drought
  • Recovering from drought

The last drought warning in England was issued in 2018 and resulted in crop failures that saw an increase in food prices.

Government response

The Environment Agency held a meeting on Friday with the National Drought Group, which includes water companies and government representatives.

Harvey Bradshaw, Environment Agency executive director for the environment, said after the meeting: "The current high temperatures we are experiencing have exacerbated pressures on wildlife and our water environment.

"EA staff are doing an excellent job responding to environmental impacts and working with water companies to make sure they are following their drought plans.

"Today’s meeting has helped to build on our coordinated action to manage water supplies, consider water users and protect the environment. 

"We urge everyone to manage the amount of water they are using in this exceptionally dry period."

Water Minister Steve Double said: "We are currently experiencing a second heatwave after what was the driest July on record for parts of the country. 

"Action is already being taken by the Government and other partners including the Environment Agency to manage the impacts.

"All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe, and we have made it clear it is their duty to maintain those supplies.

"We are better prepared than ever before for periods of dry weather, but we will continue to closely monitor the situation, including impacts on farmers and the environment, and take further action as needed."