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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 May 2006, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
First drought order takes effect
Bewl Water reservoir near Lamberhurst in Kent
The order comes even though it has been the wettest May since 1983
The first drought order in England and Wales in 11 years has come into force, affecting 650,000 people.

The order by Sutton and East Surrey Water extends an existing hosepipe ban to add restrictions on sports grounds, parks, car washes and window cleaners.

Other water companies have been given permission to bring in further orders, but do not plan to use them yet.

Forecasters have said despite it having been the wettest May since 1983 it will do little to affect the dry conditions.

BBC meteorologist Jay Wynne said: "It's been wet in May but it's not going to have an impact on the current drought."

What we are showing here is that life can go on as normal
Mike Hegarty, Sutton and East Surrey Water

Mr Wynne said it would take a prolonged spell of above-average rainfall to make up for the 18 months of dry weather.

Mike Hegarty, director of operations at Sutton and East Surrey Water, said the recent rain would be largely soaked up by plant life that had endured several dry months beforehand.

"It is winter rainfall that matters to us," he said. "Spring, summer rainfall doesn't really affect the situation. It takes months and months to re-fill the aquifers."

The drought order affects both domestic and business properties in the South East.

Filling of privately owned swimming pools other than for medical treatment
Watering of gardens and allotments, parks or sports or recreation surfaces by sprinkler or hosepipe
Filling of ornamental ponds other than fishponds
Operation of car washes
Washing of vehicles or aircraft other than for safety or hygiene
Cleaning of building exteriors other than windows and cleaning of industrial premises
Cleaning of windows by hosepipes or sprinklers
Operation of ornamental fountains or cascades

The use of ornamental fountains and the filling of private swimming pools is banned, although customers can water their gardens with watering cans and wash cars using buckets.

Commercial car washes can continue to operate using recycled water, while window cleaners can use hosepipes not connected to the mains.

Mr Hegarty said the aim of banning non-essential water use was to "... take summer demand out of the equation".

"What we are showing here is that life can go on as normal," he said.

"It may be slightly inconvenient because you can't use a hosepipe, but normal day-to-day living can go on."

The Met Office's forecast raises doubts that enough rain will fall this summer to re-fill aquifers.

On its website, it says: "Prospects for rainfall across the UK through the summer months are also uncertain, but it is unlikely that rainfall will be sufficient to alleviate the water shortages affecting some regions."

How golf courses will cope with the drought order


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