AN OFFICIAL drought status has been confirmed for parts of Cambridgeshire today (Friday) by Defra and the Environment Agency.

AN OFFICIAL drought status has been confirmed for parts of Cambridgeshire today (Friday) by Defra and the Environment Agency.

It follows the driest spring since records began in 1910. The Cambridgeshire fens, along with Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, is currently of most concern but river levels are generally falling in the rest of the East of England.

The Environment Agency has been working closely with farmers and water companies since the dry spell began. Farmers have been taking voluntary action to ensure that they use water as effectively as possible. This includes activities such as watering only at night and reducing the number of days a week they irrigate.

Some restrictions on taking water from rivers have already been put in place. The move to drought will not change this, but river and groundwater levels will be closely monitored by the agency. Further restrictions on taking water from rivers or the ground could be put in place if they become necessary, which could happen if rainfall continues to be low and/or temperatures increase.

Water companies are not currently expecting to restrict domestic water supplies this summer but are asking their customers to use water wisely. Many people are already putting water saving measures in place at home such as using watering cans instead of hosepipes, showering instead of bathing and using a bowl of water to wash vegetables.

Graham Wilson, planning manager at the Environment Agency, said: "What happens next is very dependent on the weather. Normal summer rain will reduce the rate at which rivers are falling and will help farmers and the environment especially but if this is followed by a dry winter, there could be far more serious problems next year.

"Our job is to balance the needs of people, the environment, agriculture and industry so that there is enough water to go round."

NFU East Anglia senior policy adviser Paul Hammett said farmers were already taking voluntary measures to maximise water resources.

"The fact that farmers have been able to retain access to water for so long to irrigate vegetable and salad crops is because they are carefully managing its use and keeping in close contact with the Environment Agency," he said.

"Moving to drought status highlights how important it is to make every drop of water count as this dry spell continues. We all need to work together - the public, farmers and industry - to get through this serious situation."