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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April, 2005, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
River levels 'as low as in 1976'
Much of the South East could experience water supply problems
Reservoirs and rivers are as parched as they were during the hot summer of 1976, the Met Office has said.

The period between November 2004 and March 2005 was the fourth driest winter since records began, with rainfall of 287.6mm, according to weather experts.

London, the South East and parts of East Anglia are being warned of problems with summer water supplies.

During the summer of 1976, a minister for drought was appointed, and hosepipe patrols toured the streets.

Water UK, which represents water companies across the country, said: "We had a very dry winter, so the water resource situation is not rosy at the moment."

The winter season is relied on to replenish reservoir stocks, but this year has been particularly dry
The Met Office

"Companies are concerned that in those parts of the country where there is traditionally a tight supply and demand situation, we may have to look at implementing some measures," spokesman Barrie Clarke said.

He said measures were likely to be hosepipe bans, and then drought permits allowing companies to take supplies from rivers and groundwater sources if problems persisted.

"Much of the South East could experience problems, particularly London, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Essex and parts of East Anglia," he said.

The Met Office said: "The winter season is relied on to replenish reservoir stocks, but this year has been particularly dry across the south of the country."

Leakage 'reduced'

Water UK said problems with leaks in pipe networks, notably in London, would add to difficulties.

"Companies are working hard to replace or repair damaged, old and decrepit water infrastructure networks that are the cause of very serious water loss problems," Mr Clarke said.

"However, a lot has been done to reduce leakage."

He said leakage had been cut by a third in recent years, saving enough water to supply 12 million homes.

Current estimates say that around three billion litres of water per day are lost as a result of leaks.

Is a hosepipe ban necessary?
23 Mar 05 |  Have Your Say
Dry winter prompts drought fears
10 Mar 05 |  England

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