Hertfordshire residents urged to save water as drought declared

THE south-east of England has officially been declared a drought zone, as low rainfall continues to take its toll on water levels.

Experts are warning of a dry summer – the worst since 1976 – and even heavy rainfall over the coming weeks would probably not be enough to replenish water supplies to a sufficient level.

Hatfield-based Veolia Water is facing up to the prospect of bringing in restrictions such as limited usage and hosepipe bans.

Even Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, speaking after holding a major summit on the issue on Monday, called on everyone to do what they could now to save water.

The drought has come due to a second consecutive dry autumn and winter – seasons crucial to the refill cycle of Veolia’s underground reservoirs, which provide around 60 per cent of its supply.

The rest comes from its two surface water sources, the River Thames and Grafham Water reservoir.

Veolia’s water resources manager Mike Pocock said: “The last 18 months have been exceptionally dry with rainfall patterns consistent to those seen during times of drought.

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“This autumn and winter has only had 60 per cent of normal rainfall to replenish our water supplies. This is further compounded by only 65 per cent over the same period during the previous year, so we really are seeing challenging times.”

Mr Pocock added: “Even with the wettest weather over the next few months we will not see conditions improve hugely for the spring.”

* If you would like water-saving devices, tips and advice, go online at www.veoliawater.co.uk/savewater