London and the Thames Valley saw below-average rainfall for 19 of the last 24 months and only two previous years – 1892 and 1920 – have seen less rainfall since records began in 1884.
As a result, groundwater is lower in some parts of the region than it was during the 1976 drought and some of the tributaries to the Thames are flowing at exceptionally low levels.
A spokesman for Thames Water said they were: “Constantly monitoring the situation, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
If we don’t see significant rainfall soon, Thames Water, which serves 8.8m people in the region, will be forced to apply to Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, for a Temporary Use Ban.
The Temporary Use Ban, formerly the Hosepipe Ban, has been extended to include filling or maintaining a swimming pool, fountain or pond. It has also redefined the word ‘garden’ to include parks, lawns, verges, sports fields, allotments and any other green spaces not used for agriculture or food-growing business purposes.
Should the dry weather continue into the year we could see the return of water rationing and standpipes, something not seen in this country since 1976.
When Caroline Spelman announced that the South East of England was officially in drought last month, she said: “It is not just the responsibility of Government, water companies and businesses need to act against drought. We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water and to start now.”
Thames Water is also in the process of applying to get approval to build a new reservoir in Oxfordshire which would help meet the increasing demands of a growing population and a potentially drier climate.