Warning over water use after driest winter for 20 years

Updated: 

People are being advised to be wise with their water use following the driest winter period in 20 years.

The conditions, mostly affecting southern parts of England, have proved challenging for farmers - with a warning that some crops are suffering from the lack of rainfall.

The UK experienced less than half the average rainfall for April, with southern England seeing the driest weather.

The October to March period has been the driest since 1995-96.

The NFU has warned that "rain-fed crops such as cereals are beginning to suffer from low soil moisture", but said farmers in the south and east are remaining calm about the weather conditions.

After a wetter patch towards the middle of this month, dry conditions are likely to return by the end of May, Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said.

He said: "I can say that in the next few days it does not look like there is going to be anything particularly meaningful in terms of rainfall.

"After some rainfall in the middle of May, it looks likely drier than average conditions will return towards the end of May."

A spokesman for Affinity Water, which supplies an average 900 million litres of water daily to customers in parts of southern England, said it is advising people to do their bit to reduce the likelihood of having restrictions placed on them this summer.

He said: "Since July 2016, our region has received just over half of the normal rainfall that we would usually expect. 

"Due to the low rainfall, many rivers across the south east of England have seen flows decrease.

"Our ground water sources have also been affected by the low rainfall, which is where 60% of the water we supply to our customers comes from.

"We are encouraging our customers to save water to help preserve supplies and minimise the possibility of restrictions this summer."

Southern Water stopped short of issuing a warning, but have re-iterated their water-saving tips - including taking a shower instead of a bath and making sure the washing machine and dishwasher are full before using them.

In a statement, the supplier said: "Despite the dry winter, we don't believe we will need to take measures, such as introducing Temporary Use Bans, previously known as hosepipe bans, in our water supply areas this spring and summer.

"We're continuing to monitor the situation closely, with clear plans in place to make sure we're fully prepared, should the relatively dry weather continue in the months ahead."

 A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said there are no current water supply issues, but added that they are "carefully monitoring the situation and will take action to manage any environmental impacts".

She said: "We always advise that everyone use water wisely - especially during a period of dry weather - and to follow the advice of their water company should water saving measures be required.

"The Environment Agency, water companies, businesses and farmers are working together to minimise any potential impacts to people and the environment should the dry weather continue."