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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
South-east drought 'stabilising'
The drought situation in south-east England is not getting any worse but another dry period could see more restrictions needed, a group has said.

The latest drought update has come from Water UK, the body which represents the water supply industry.

It said the "immediate threat to public water supplies" had been stabilised by reduced customer consumption and more spending on water-saving initiatives.

"We are increasing the amount of water available," said Water UK.

The South East has been in the grip of a drought since November 2004, with only two months of above average rainfall since then.

Eight water firms have been operating hosepipe bans, while Sutton and East Surrey Water also has a drought order in place.

If we were to have a third dry winter, we would be in uncharted territory
Pamela Taylor, Water UK

There have been flash floods in parts of Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex recently, but the hottest July on record saw rainfall down by nearly 50% on 2005.

Water resources in the region are running at 70% capacity, but Water UK said it believed further restrictions were unlikely this year.

"Consumption is down and water efficiency is up," said Water UK's chief executive Pamela Taylor.

But she cautioned: "If we were to have a third dry winter, we would certainly be in uncharted territory [but] nobody should think the water companies aren't planning for this every day."

She said detecting and mending leaks continued to be a high priority.

The industry regulator Ofwat said in July that 18 out of 22 water firms in England and Wales were meeting or exceeding their leakage targets.

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