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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 00:38 GMT
Water companies lift hosepipe ban
Hosepipe being used
Customers are still being urged to use water responsibly
Four water firms in the south east of England are lifting their hosepipe bans after months of above average rainfall.

Thames Water, Southern Water, Three Valleys Water and Sutton and East Surrey Water have lifted the ban, which affected more than 13m customers.

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

But the Environment Agency warned groundwater levels are still low and there is a risk of drought next summer.

Both South East Water and Mid Kent Water said they would review their ban at the end of January.

CUSTOMER NUMBERS
Thames Water - 8.1m customers
Southern Water - 1.6m
Three Valleys Water - 3m
Sutton and East Surrey - 642,000
South East Water - 1.4m
Mid Kent Water - 585,000

Thames Water said heavy downpours over the past four months had raised groundwater levels which are expected to become normal by February.

Sutton and East Surrey Water's reservoir, at Bough Beech in Kent, is full but accounts for only 15% of supply and Three Valleys Water said its underground aquifers were starting to replenish.

South East Water's reservoirs at Ardingly and Arlington in Sussex are full, but many of the company's underground sources are only now showing signs of recovery.

Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said as water levels were in a better position than they were this time last year, it was reasonable for the companies to lift the bans.

She added: "Despite the wet autumn and winter so far, groundwater levels are still low in parts of the South East and it is too early to say the drought is completely over.

Positive legacy

"If the rest of the winter is dry, there is still a risk of drought next summer."

Despite the lifting of the hosepipe and sprinkler bans, all four companies are urging customers to keep aware of how much water they are using.

Three Valleys Water's managing director, Peter Darby, said: "The positive legacy of the drought is that it reminded all of us that water is a precious resource and as with all other resources it is possible to reduce, reuse and recycle."

Cholderton and District Water, the only other company to introduce a hosepipe ban, lifted restrictions in December.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A Southern Water spokesman on why the ban is being lifted now



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