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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 09:01 GMT
Water firm imposes hosepipe ban
A hosepipe
Three million domestic customers will be affected by the ban
A hosepipe and sprinkler ban is to be imposed by Three Valleys Water to tackle the worst water shortages the South East has seen in a century.

The firm's three million domestic customers in Essex, Beds, Bucks, Herts, North London and Middlesex will be hit by the ban, which begins on 3 April.

Last week Thames Water announced a hosepipe and sprinkler ban from April.

The companies are imposing restrictions after a prolonged period of below-average rainfall.

Drought surpassed

Andrew Marsh, of the Consumer Council for Water, said Three Valleys customers would find it easier to take a ban than homeowners in Thames Water areas as the company had a better track record on leakages.

"Customers will grumble about it, but they'll find it slightly easier to take," he said.

The South East has had two consecutive winters with below-average rainfall.

The period between November 2004 and January 2006 was the driest for more than 80 years, surpassing the drought of 1974-76.

The Environment Agency has warned that unless there is sufficient rainfall in the next few months, more drastic measures than a hosepipe and sprinkler ban may be needed.

It has not ruled out standpipes or supply cuts as a last resort.

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