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Epic spring rainfall means hosepipe ban could be lifted for millions

Published: 8 June 2012
More than 8 million Thames Water customers could see the hosepipe restrictions lifted before autumn thanks to the recent rainfall, which has seen water levels of the river Thames restored to normal.
Epic spring rainfall means hosepipe ban could be lifted for millions
It means garden centres in the London and Thames Valley areas, who recently saw the hosepipe ban lifted for up to 28 days just for newly-laid turf and plants, will once again be able to water all plants without restriction. That is, unless the British summer takes "an unexpectedly Saharan twist," warned the water company.

Customers' vigilant response to the drought and their help in saving water has also been praised by Thames Water as a great help reducing the strain on resources. Anglian Water, serving 4.3m customers in East Anglia and the Midlands, and Southern Water, which caters for 2m Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight consumers, are both in a similar position to Thames Water.

The other drought-ridden areas served by South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water and Veolia Water haven't seen so much benefit from the colossal spring rainfall because they rely on groundwater sources which have seen little or no improvement.

Thames Water sustainability director Richard Aylard said: "The record spring rainfall has eased the situation considerably. The river Thames provides 70% of the water we supply to our customers and levels are now where we would expect them to be at this time of the year, and our reservoirs are still full.

"In addition we have had excellent cooperation from our customers, both in observing the restrictions and in using water wisely, and we are currently beating our leakage target by more than 60 million litres a day.

"However, the levels in many of the natural underground reservoirs we also draw on, and which keep rivers flowing throughout the year, are still very low and are unlikely to recover until there is sustained winter rainfall.

"Taking everything into account, we need a little longer to be sure that we will have enough water to get us through the summer and autumn without restrictions. We will however not keep the restrictions in place for a moment longer than is necessary, and will update our customers again on the situation towards the end of June.

"But unless the topsy-turvy British weather delivers an unexpectedly Saharan twist, we no longer expect to need to keep the ban in place right through to the autumn."

Following the two driest years ever recorded, seven companies imposed Temporary Use Bans on April 5.

Within 24 hours of the restrictions coming into force, the heavens opened and stayed open for six weeks, delivering 262% of average rainfall for April in the Thames region, and following up with frequent showers in May.

The spring rain boosted flows in the Thames region's rivers, which allowed the company's surface reservoirs to be topped up and kept full.

Mr Aylard added: "Come rain or shine, however, we would urge all our customers to continue to use water wisely. It does make a real difference.

"In the longer term, we share the concerns expressed by the Environment Agency about the possibility of a third dry winter in succession.

"At this stage of the year, only sustained winter rainfall will now provide a further top up of the natural underground reserves which underpin the supply of water to both rivers and our customers. These reserves are still very low in many places and if we don't have something close to average rainfall over the winter we can't rule out the need for restrictions again next year."

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