Hose pipe ban increasingly likely in Cambs this year

A HOSE pipe ban in Cambridgeshire is looking “increasingly likely” as water companies and the Government look at how to cope with the drought in East Anglia and the south east.

The region is emerging from its second dry winter in a row, and its driest five months ever recorded.

At this time of year, underground reserves of water should be replenished and rivers returned to their optimum flow. Instead, the extended lack of rainfall has drained reservoirs and boreholes holding supplies we need to drink, cook, wash and grow food.

None of this comes as any surprise to farmers and water companies, who are already taking steps to cope with what they predict could be the worst drought in living memory.

But now Defra minister Caroline Spelman has said it is time for the public to get the message too – and play their part in saving precious water now before a parched spring and summer arrive.

“It is not just the responsibility of Government, water companies and businesses to act against drought,” she said. “We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now.”

Mrs Spelman was speaking after hosting a crisis summit with the Environment Agency, Natural England, British Waterways, the Met Office and farmers’ representatives in London on Monday.

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The aim was to discuss the water shortages, listen to what measures that are already being implemented, and decide upon actions needed.

Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk and Lincolnshire are already in drought, officially joined in that classification this week by the south-east of England.

The Anglian region saw 74 per cent of its average rainfall in January, leaving groundwater levels “exceptionally low” with soils not wet enough for a “recharge” to take place. Only a widespread, prolonged deluge of above-average rain will correct the balance, but the Met Office has forecast only a 15 per cent chance of the next three months being abnormally wet – making water restrictions possible from the spring.

At the summit, water companies at high risk of drought agreed to reduce water losses through leakage and co-ordinate temporary restrictions such as hosepipe bans where necessary.

John Clare, of Huntingdon-based Anglian Water, said: “We have made a lot of effort to combat leakage, with �14million invested this winter, and 60 additional staff. It is an enormous task but we have upped our game.

“We believe that the solution to this problem is efficiency. It is about using less, but also making better use of what we have got. Water companies are doing everything we can. Government can lead and cajole, but when it comes down to it, everybody has to play their part.”

Anglian Water added that it was also increasingly likely hose pipe bans would be enforced at some point this year – ending a 20-year period in which the firm has avoided such a ban.

“We’re having out second consecutive dry winter which is very challenging,” said a spokesman. “There may have to be a hose pipe ban – it is looking increasing likely.”