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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Summer hosepipe bans 'unlikely'
Hosepipe being used
Restrictions are unlikely because of a wet winter, water firms say
The UK is unlikely to face the droughts suffered in some areas in 2006 despite predictions of a hot summer, water companies and weather forecasters say.

Last year was the warmest on record in the UK and more than 13m people were placed under hosepipe restrictions.

BBC forecaster John Hammond said a wet winter had replenished supplies and Water UK, representing suppliers, said resources were back to average levels.

The Environment Agency stressed that people should continue to save water.

It has been dry lately but we had a very wet winter in terms of ground water
John Hammond
BBC Weather Centre

Earlier this year, hosepipe bans were finally lifted in parts of south-east England.

The restrictions were introduced in 2005 and 2006 following record dry winters for two consecutive years.

The warm April weather, coupled with a Met Office prediction of another hot summer, has prompted fears that water levels could again dip to low levels, forcing restrictions.

"It has been dry lately but we had a very wet winter in terms of ground water," Mr Hammond told the BBC News website.

"The water has been replenished pretty well so it's far too early to start talking about hosepipe bans."

Rainfall 'uncertain'

The Met Office's official forecast for this summer, released on Wednesday, said there would be "periods of very hot weather", warning that it could affect the "very young and very old" and those who suffered with breathing difficulties.

This time last year we were looking at a summer that was looking to be warm but we'd had two very dry winters - that was the critical fact
Barrie Clarke
Water UK

"The forecast for rainfall is less certain, and currently there are no indications of an increased risk of a particularly dry or particularly wet summer," it continued.

Water UK's Barrie Clarke said water companies were in "a much, much stronger position than last year".

"This time last year we were looking at a summer that was looking to be warm but we'd had two very dry winters - that was the critical fact," he told the BBC News website.

That had prompted one of the most serious droughts of the past 100 years and led to the need for hosepipe bans and "requests to customers to use water sensibly", he added.

"The difficulty was that, in the South East particularly, ground water was very depleted - we depend on winter rains to replenish underground water."

Public consultation

Last year's warm summer then made "low level-restrictions" the sensible option, he said.

Mud flats at Wallasea Island in Essex in July 2006
Last year was the warmest on record in the UK

"We don't expect to have a repeat of that," he added.

However, an Environment Agency spokesman agreed there was still no room for complacency from consumers.

"We hope the message is getting through that saving water is not just for droughts.

"If there's an extended period of dry weather we don't want to be storing up problems for the future."

A public consultation on whether water firms could impose compulsory metering in "water stressed" parts of England will end on 24 April.


SEE ALSO
Water metering plans put forward
30 Jan 07 |  England
What happened to the drought?
05 Oct 06 |  Magazine

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