A number of water companies in the south east of England are today lifting hosepipe and sprinkler bans which have been in place since last year.
This has eased immediate worries about water resources following the record drought that began in November 2004.
But Andy Watson, Southern Water’s Director of Operations, appealed to customers to continue to be aware of how much water hosepipes and sprinklers can use.
He said: ‘A family of four uses in a day the same amount of water as a hosepipe in an hour, and although our resources are better this winter compared with last year, they are still at a low level.
‘As a result, we would ask customers for their continued support in being water efficient and avoiding waste following their fantastic response during the drought.’
The ban remains in place for more than two million residents of Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire.
Their suppliers, Mid Kent Water and South East Water, are due to review their hosepipe bans at the end of the month.
Meanwhile Thames Water said it is continuing its drive to reduce leakage, particularly in London.
Richard Aylard, External Affairs and Environment Director at Thames Water, said: ‘The good news is that the recent wet weather has allowed us to fill our reservoirs.
‘It has taken some time for the rain to seep down into underground aquifers that keep rivers and reservoirs topped up during the spring and the summer, but groundwater levels throughout the catchment are also rising and are expected to have generally recovered to at least near normal levels by February.
‘This all means that keeping the hosepipe ban in place is no longer justified.
‘We regretted having to impose the ban, our first in 15 years, but given the severity of the drought a cautious approach was needed to keep taps flowing without harming the environment by taking extra water from rivers.’
Mr Aylard appealed to Thames Water’s eight million customers to keep saving water wherever they can as London receives less rain than Rome, Dallas or Istanbul.
Thames Water says it remains focused on reducing London’s ‘unacceptably high’ leakage rates. It says its rolling programme to replace the capital’s oldest, leakiest mains is moving into new areas of the City and the West End, as well as south of the river in Croydon.
The Environment Agency said it was reasonable for the water companies to lift their hosepipe bans as the rain over the past few months had significantly improved the water resources situation in the south east of England.
Chief Executive Barbara Young said: ‘It’s only very recently that we’ve seen above average rainfall in the south east, reservoirs full, or close to full, again and essential groundwater reserves recovering because of the rain. So lifting hosepipe bans is reasonable if water companies are confident the winter rainfall has replenished water resources to sufficient levels to get through next summer.’
She added: ‘The drought over the past two years has been a powerful reminder to us all that water is precious. For the moment, we’re in a better position than this time last year, but this doesn’t mean we can become complacent. We need to save water at all times.’