Hosepipe ban looms as drought declared

A HOSEPIPE 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.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has classed Ely and the surrounding areas as being at significant risk following a winter rainfall 79 per cent lower than average – the lowest since 1910.

Jim Paice, minister for (Defra) told the Ely Standard on Tuesday: “We need well above average rainfall for the remainder of the recharge period for significant recovery of groundwater.”

“In our Anglian region, groundwater levels remain exceptionally low. Soils in these areas are still not wet enough for widespread recharge to take place.”

Helen Vale, the Environment Agency’s drought co-ordinator, warned: “Pressure on water resources looks set to increase over the next few months, so it is more important than ever that consumers, businesses and water abstractors use water wisely.”

Anglian Water is officially in drought status but its reservoirs are said to be filling up slowly.

Defra admits hosepipe bans and water restrictions could begin in the spring but Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, says: “It is not just the responsibility of Government, water companies and businesses need to act against drought.

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“We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now.”

Meanwhile Littleport farmer John Lee said he and his colleagues could only “wait for nature” to deliver some rainfall.

“We had the worst crop we’ve ever had last year and if you don’t get some natural rain, it will create a shortage again,” he added.

The trick was for farmers to keep their own water reserves so they could irrigate their fields during dry spells but the Environment Agency is cracking down on those who try to take water from rivers.

“We recognise the problems farmers have been facing with drought conditions and the difficulties they will face in 2012, which is why we are in regular contact with them,” the Environment Agency said.

John Clare, of Anglian Water, said: “We have made a lot of effort to combat leakage, with �14 million 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.”

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 our second consecutive dry winter which is very challenging,” said a spokesman. “There may have to be a hosepipe ban – it is