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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 11:23 GMT
Drought remains despite downpours
Water tap
Experts have stressed the need to save water remains
There is still a drought in the South East despite rainfall being above average levels last month, the Environment Agency has confirmed.

The area is heavily reliant on underground water sources which have not benefited enough from the rain.

Seven South East water companies have hosepipe or sprinkler bans in place but all drought orders there have expired.

Met Office figures show that rainfall in south-eastern and southern England was 36% above average in November.

One expert told BBC environment correspondent Sarah Muckerjee that recent rainfall levels would have to continue every day between now and the end of February to cancel out the long term dry spell.

Drought measures

She said that one weather station in the South East recorded months worth of rainfall in a single day during the last two months.

The Environment Agency confirmed that recent rain had started to seep down but that these type of conditions were required for the whole of the winter for stocks to fully recover.

Essentially, the problem lies with the fact that during the past two dry years the ground has hardened, making it more difficult for rainwater to seep through.

Spokeswoman Lisa Beechey said: "Just because it's raining doesn't mean the drought is over.

"Water companies should not remove their hosepipe bans until they are confident that their water resources position is recovering so that - for example - they are in a good position to deal with next summer."

She added: "Despite the rain or hosepipe bans, we still need people and businesses to continue to use water wisely. We should all save water regardless of whether it's raining or not.

Wet spell

"But next year, we may not be so lucky. If the rest of the winter is cold and dry, we may need more hosepipe bans across much of the South East and widespread environmental impacts."

In Kent and Thames Valley, about 70% of water comes from ground water sources which have become depleted over time.

One solution would be to create new reservoirs and Thames Water is planning to build a new one in Oxfordshire.

Most reservoirs are average or above average for the time of year, with levels in most of the reservoirs in south-east England having sharply increased over the past two to three weeks in response to the wet weather.

Other parts of the UK have been hit hard by wet weather. Scotland had its wettest November in nearly 30 years, it emerged earlier this week.

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