Drought is set to be declared TODAY bringing fears of more hosepipe bans while experts predict dry conditions could last into next YEAR – and Britons panic-buy water ahead of 95F heat
- ‘Drought-stricken’ south and East will be declared in a state of drought putting pressure on water companies
- Some of England experienced the driest July since records began as reservoirs fell to lowest level in 30 years
- Temperatures will hit 95F (35C) today and are forecasted to rise to 99F (37C) over the weekend with warnings
- Around 17million people are already affected by hosepipe bans – and another 15million could soon join them
Large parts of England are set to be officially declared in a state of drought today which could last until next year leaving millions more facing hosepipe bans and other curbs as temperatures hit 95F (35C) today making the country hotter than parts of the Caribbean.
The hardest-hit areas in the South and East of the country are expected to be classified as drought-stricken which will put pressure on water companies to do more to conserve supplies and Brits panic buy bottled water in case of shortages.
Around 17million people are already affected by hosepipe bans – and another 15million could soon join them after the driest July on record for some areas and the driest first half of the year since 1976.
Jamie Hannaford, a hydrologist at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which advises the Government, told the Telegraph: ‘The autumn-winter period as a whole will be critical to dictating what the water resources position will be as we go into 2023.’
There are also fears that when it finally does rain that it will cause flash floods, the Met Office said with warnings set for northern parts of the UK next week. This has already prompted farmers like TV star Jeremy Clarkson to harvest their crops early.
‘It may be the wrong type of rain because it falls very fast and very hard,’ Paul Davies, the Met Office chief meteorologist, told the BBC. ‘When it comes against the hard ground then the water flows very fast, taking debris and causing flash flooding, whereas other areas may see very little at all.’
Experts also worry about the knock on effect on farmers which could push up prices and deplete supplies of potato, apple, hop harvests, broccoli and sprouts.
Parts of southern England have had the driest July since records began, and reservoir levels have fallen to their lowest levels in 30 years. Sources last night said they expect the drought declaration to be a ‘formality’.
A four-day amber warning for extreme heat from the Met Office is in place for much of England and Wales until Sunday as temperatures are forecasted to rise to 99F (37C) over the weekend with warnings of health impacts and disruption to travel.
Cattle search for drinking water on Dartmoor, Devon at what until recently was an established watering hole, but is now completely dry
An aerial view of the harvest during the heatwave in Scampton, Lincolnshire. Parts of southern England have had the driest July since records began, and reservoir levels have fallen to their lowest levels in 30 years. Sources last night said they expect the drought declaration to be a ‘formality’
Low water level is pictured yesterday at Pontsticill Reservoir amid the ongoing heat wave near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.
Anglian Water staff handing out energy bottles of water to the residents of Haddenham in Cambridgeshire on Thursday afternoon
A general view of dry grass on the football pitches at Hackney Marshes. The Met Office has issued an amber extreme heat warning which came into force on Thursday and covers the rest of this week
The driest first seven months of the year in decades and hot spells have left parts of the UK facing looming drought, prompting hosepipe bans and warnings about the impact on agriculture, rivers and wildlife. Pictured: A dried out pond in Churchill Gardens, Bromley, east London
New oak trees in Windsor Great Park begin to grow next to dead oak trees which still provide a vital habitat for insects
A completely dry pond in Wanstead Park in northeast London, as heatwaves and drought caused by climate change continue in the UK
A Highland Cow at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire on Thursday afternoon looking to cool down and get a drink by the watering hole before it dries out
A dried riverbed in Kemble, Gloucestershire, near the source of the River Thames is pictured yesterday
Firefighters put out a grass fire at Hollow Ponds in Leytonstone, East London, yesterday
Q&A: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DROUGHTS
Who decides if it’s a drought?
The Environment Agency’s National Drought Group declares when there is a drought. The group is made up of powerbrokers in the water sector with representatives from government ministries, water firms, unions and regulators and is chaired by Harvey Bradshaw, director of the agency.
What makes it a drought?
There is no single definition for a drought or set of measures that must be met. Instead, the group looks at rainfall, water supplies in rivers, reservoirs and lakes and temperature forecasts.
If they decide the factors have combined in a certain way to warrant a warning, they will raise the alarm and offer a prediction of how severe the drought will be and how long it will last.
There are two stages of drought they could declare:
1. Basic – where there is a risk of stress on water supplies, reduced crop yields and increased wildfires.
2. Severe – involving a risk of widespread environmental damage, wildfires, failure of crops and of water supplies. The last severe drought was in 2011.
What happens next?
Once a drought is declared, the National Drought Group can limit the amount of water companies can take from rivers and ensure there are suitable plans for dealing with drought incidents.
In some situations, the group will perform an ’emergency fish rescue’ from drying-out bodies of water.
It can also stop businesses using spray irrigation as well as advising the public how to conserve water.
If a severe drought is declared, the group activates its major incident procedure and management of the situation will be handed over to the Government.
It would be the first drought declared in the UK since 2018 – although that one was rapidly brought to an end by heavy rain.
The move will be announced after a meeting today of the National Drought Group, led by the Environment Agency and including water firms and groups such as the National Farmers’ Union and the Angling Trust. It comes as:
- A Met Office amber warning for extreme heat came into force yesterday that will last until Sunday;
- Forecasters said temperatures could hit 37C (99F) in Birmingham and London between today and the end of the weekend;
- Fire chiefs saw eight times as many grass fires this week compared to a year ago;
- Police say arsonists have targeted tinder-dry fields and parks;
- Sainsbury’s became the latest supermarket to stop the sale of disposable barbecues;
- Meteorologists said showers next week are unlikely to be enough to replenish reservoirs;
While an official declaration of drought will not trigger any specific action by water companies, it creates a ‘sense of urgency’ for them, according to Government sources. An Environment Agency spokesman said firms were under no obligation to take action. Three firms have already announced hosepipe bans – Southern Water, South East Water and Welsh Water. Thames Water and Yorkshire Water have signalled they are considering bans, and South West Water and Severn Trent are also expected to bring in restrictions.
Together, they would cover around 32 million people. Stuart Colville, of industry trade body Water UK, told the BBC an official declaration of drought was looking ‘increasingly inevitable’.
There has been criticism that water firms in England and Wales let 681 million gallons of water leak from their pipes every day, equivalent to 1,245 full Olympic swimming pools. Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak yesterday vowed to crack down on leaking water companies if he becomes prime minister, saying ‘nothing is off the table’. But aides in Liz Truss’s camp said this amounted to a policy U-turn as he had previously supported hosepipe bans.
The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said it would require ‘exceptional’ rainfall over the next one to three months to replenish water stocks. Satellite images show huge areas of England looking yellow and parched under the extreme dry weather.
According to the Sun, some supermarket shelves were stripped dry from water bottles.
Hosepipe bans also in turn have an effect on farmers, which could threaten crops.
Jerry Knox, a professor of agricultural water management at Cranfield University, told the Guardian: ‘We are starting to see real issues for crops such as potatoes. We will see reduced yields and particularly reduced quality.’
‘Potatoes are set to become more expensive while farmers are already abandoning plans to grow brassicas like cabbages,’ Professor Jerry Knox of Cranfield University told the Times. ‘The autumn and winter will be critical to to return to normal conditions.’
Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said: ‘Drought will not disappear in a matter of days — it’s going to take a long period of sustained rainfall.’
The UK Health Security Agency has put a heat health alert in place. Temperatures hit 34.2C (93.6F) at Wiggonholt, West Sussex, yesterday.
Forecaster Craig Snell told the PA news agency: ‘It’s going to be an incredibly hot day, and very sunny across the board, with temperatures slightly higher than what we saw on Thursday.’
There is also a heat health alert in place from the UK Health Security Agency, with experts advising people to look out for those who are older or with existing health conditions, as well as young children.
The ongoing dry conditions, combined with last month’s record-breaking heatwave, have depleted rivers, reservoirs and aquifers and dried up soils, hitting agriculture, water supplies and wildlife and raising the risk of wildfires.
Four water companies in England and Wales have already brought in hosepipe bans or have signalled their intention to do so, while the Wildlife Trusts have called for an England-wide hosepipe ban to protect nature and rivers.
Brits have been trying to beat the hosepipe band by coming out with initiative solutions to get around the measure
Pictured: West Midlands fire service are warning Britons to stay safe in the heat and keep hydrated throughout the heatwave
A fire, pictured, which has broken out on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire yesterday as the UK is warned of more wildfires at the weekend
Firefighters attend to a fire, yesterday, following a long period of hot weather and little rain, in Rainham, Essex
Firefighters attend to a fire in Rainham, Essex yesterday, following a long period of hot weather and little rain
A water tanker in Northend, Oxfordshire, yesterday as dozens of homes in the Oxfordshire village were left without water after E.coli was found in a nearby reservoir
Grass wildfire on Canvey Island yesterday. A wildfire started very close to the big Morrison’s store and spread very quickly.
A man is pictured walking on a path amongst dead grass in Victoria Park, east London. The Met Office has issued an amber heat warning running between Thursday and Sunday, which could see temperatures peak at 36C across southern England and eastern Wales
What is your water company doing to cope with the dry weather?
The National Drought Group – made up of Government and agency officials, water companies and other groups such as the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – is set to meet tomorrow to discuss the prolonged dry weather
Four water companies have announced hosepipe bans in the UK as another heatwave scorches the country.
Thames Water was the latest to say it expects to implement a temporary usage ban (TUB) in the coming weeks due to the dry weather.
Here are each water company’s current guidelines concerning hosepipe bans and water usage across the UK, alongside water leakage statistics for those based in England and Wales:
– Anglian Water
Area: East of England and Hartlepool
Customers: Six million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 86 litres
A spokesman said: ‘We have no hosepipe bans currently in place across our region and we’re working hard to keep it that way, but we’re watching river levels very closely right now as things can change quickly and the forecast for this month remains dry and warm.’
– Welsh Water (Dwr Cymru)
Area: Most of Wales and parts of western England on the border with Wales
Customers: Three million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 116 litres
The company has introduced a hosepipe ban for customers in the region of Pembrokeshire and a small part of Carmarthenshire, which will come into effect on August 19.
The TUB will be in place ‘until we have had enough rain to replenish our water resources’.
– Hafren Dyfrdwy
Area: North-east and mid-Wales
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 134 litres
The water provider does not currently have any restrictions in place but has not ruled out implementing ‘joint policies’ along with the Welsh government should the situation with the dry weather worsen.
A spokesman said: ‘Whilst we don’t have any concerns about raw water position for Hafren Dyfrdwy, we continue to monitor the situation and are a part of the Welsh Government’s Taskforce, working closely with them to create joint policies and processes in the event of drought action.’
– Northumbrian Water
Customers: 2.7 million
Area: Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and parts of North Yorkshire
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 110 litres
The website says there are ‘no plans in place to implement any drought measures such as hosepipe bans’, but adds it is ‘good practice’ to use water wisely.
– Severn Trent Water
Area: From the Bristol Channel to the Humber and from mid-Wales to the East Midlands
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 112 litres
The region covered by Severn Trent Water currently has no hosepipe bans in place.
However, the company said it will continue to monitor reservoir levels and demand for water ‘closely’, as it does every year, for any changes.
– South West Water
Area: Devon, Cornwall, parts of Dorset and Somerset
Customers: 1.7 million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 118 litres
South West water customers are at risk of ‘formal restrictions’ being introduced over the coming weeks.
The last water restriction in the region was in 1996, but the company said on August 3 it may have to make the ‘difficult decision’ to introduce restrictions ‘if the exceptional levels of demand and sustained dry weather continues’.
– Southern Water
Area: The south-west of England, including Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, most of Wiltshire and parts of Gloucestershire and Hampshire
Customers: 2.5 million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 87 litres
A hosepipe ban has been in place for customers in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight since August 5.
The company has applied for a Drought Permit on the River Test from the Environment Agency to allow them to continue to ‘take water if levels continue to drop’.
– Thames Water
Area: London and the Thames Valley
Customers: 15 million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 161 litres
Thames Water said it is planning to issue a hosepipe ban in the coming weeks ‘given the long term forecast’ of hot and dry weather for the region.
It added: ‘The timing is not confirmed due to a number of operational and legal procedural requirements but we will be updating our customers, partners, regulators and stakeholders at the earliest time to ensure a co-ordinated approach.
‘In the meantime, we continue to urge our customers to only use what they need for their essential use.’
– United Utilities
Area: The North West in a region from Crewe to Carlisle
Customers: More than three million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 130 litres
A company spokesman told the PA news agency it is ‘not considering any restrictions on use’ of water at present but did encourage customers to use water wisely.
– Wessex Water
Area: The South West including Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, and parts of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire
Customers: 2.8 million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 111 litres
No hosepipe bans are planned by Wessex Water but the company does warn that reservoir and groundwater levels are low and urges customers to ‘use water responsibly’.
– Yorkshire Water
Area: West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire, part of North Lincolnshire, most of North Yorkshire and part of Derbyshire
Customers: More than five million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 130 litres
A spokesman said: ‘We haven’t applied for any drought orders or implemented TUBs. They do both form part of our drought plan and so they are tools that we could call on if/when we need to.’
On its website, the firm said there is not currently a hosepipe ban in place but it ‘can never rule it out. It’s been a really dry year, so we all need to save water where we can.’
– Affinity Water
Area: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and other parts of the South East
Customers: 3.83 million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 120 litres
Parts of the South East covered by Affinity Water are ‘unlikely’ to see any hosepipe ban this year.
The company’s website says: ‘At current levels, it’s unlikely we’ll need to introduce restrictions this year.’
– Bristol Water
Area: Bristol city, north east Somerset and south Gloucestershire
Customers: More than 500,000
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 69 litres
At the end of July, the company said: ‘We will continue to monitor the situation, but with our current water resource outlook we do not foresee any issues in supply to customers.’
– Portsmouth Water
Area: Portsmouth and the surrounding area
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 79 litres
Despite Southern Water issuing a temporary usage ban for nearby Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth Water reassured customers on Twitter on Tuesday ‘there is no hosepipe ban in the Portsmouth Water area of supply’.
It added: ‘But please, please, please use water responsibly! We’re all in this together.’
– South East Water
Area: The south-east of England, including Eastbourne, Maidenhead and North Kent
Customers: 2.2 million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 99 litres
A hosepipe ban will come into force on Friday for customers in Kent and Sussex.
The company announced: ‘We have been left with no choice but to restrict the use of hosepipes and sprinklers from 12.01am on Friday August 12 within our Kent and Sussex supply area until further notice.’
On its website, South East Water said: ‘We are taking this step to ensure we have enough water for both essential use and to protect the environment.
‘This will enable us to also reduce the amount of water we need to take from already stressed local water sources.’
– South Staffs Water
Area: West Midlands, South Staffordshire, South Derbyshire, North Warwickshire and North Worcestershire
Customers: 1.3 million
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 111 litres
Head of water strategy and environment Natalie Akroyd said: ‘With the recent hot weather and less-than-average rainfall for this time of year, we continue to monitor our water resources and encourage our customers to use water wisely.
‘We currently don’t have any plans in place to introduce hosepipe bans.’
– SES Water
Area: Parts of Surrey, Kent and south London
Leakage per property per day in 2020/2021: 82 litres
SES Water wholesale director Tom Kelly said: ‘The prolonged dry weather, coupled with higher demand for water, continues to affect our levels of resources, which are less than we’d expect for this time of year.
‘85% of our supplies come from groundwater resources, which is water stored in aquifers underground, and the remaining 15% is abstracted from rivers into our Bough Beech reservoir in Kent.
‘These resources are refilled by rainwater between October to April and so, unlike some other water companies, we don’t rely on summer rainfall to replenish.
‘We’ll be monitoring rainfall levels during the winter months, as that’s when our groundwater sources refill, in case restrictions need to be brought in next spring.
‘While they have still been affected by the dry weather, it’s the increase in demand for water that’s the main cause for the decline in water resource levels.
‘Customers playing their part to save water is helping us from having to introduce restrictions.
‘We continue to closely monitor our resources on a daily basis and won’t rule out bringing in a hosepipe ban if we feel it is required.
‘In the meantime, we’re asking customers to keep using water responsibly, as we play our part to keep leakage as low as we can, and together we can make sure there’s enough for everyone this summer.’
– Scottish Water
A Scottish Water spokesman told PA there were no plans for water usage restrictions in Scotland.
He added: ‘We are monitoring and managing our water resources and, in some instances, reservoirs are being topped up from alternative water sources to ensure supply resilience for customers.’
– Northern Ireland Water
A spokesman for Northern Ireland Water said: ‘The amount of water in our impounding reservoirs is kept under continuous review and we are content with our current level of storage. However, it is imperative that customers continue to use water wisely, especially given the forecast for the next number of days.
‘At this point in time, NI Water is not introducing a hosepipe ban. The situation is, however, being closely monitored and if storage reduces significantly or demand became excessive, NI Water would have to consider the possibility of putting in place measures in order to protect water supplies.’
Water leakage information was compiled by the information dashboard Discover Water and is based on information agreed by water companies, the water regulators, the UK and Welsh Governments and the Consumer Council for Water.
Council suspends food and garden waste collections for a MONTH – in the middle of heatwave
Waltham Forest Council gave residents just five days notice that their food bins and garden waste bins will not be collected until September 12
Some Londoners have been left outraged after being informed by their council that food bins will not be collected from their homes for more than a month despite the next heatwave looming.
Waltham Forest Council took to social media to let people know that from August 15, both food and garden waste bins will not be collected until September 12.
Furious residents of the north-east London borough have fired back, highlighting that their ‘rotting’ food will be left uncollected during the UK heatwave.
And Waltham Forest deputy group leader for the Conservatives Afzal Akram revealed that him and his colleagues were ‘flabbergasted’ when they heard about the suspension.
Cllr Akram told MailOnline: ‘We are flabbergasted by this decision being made and by the way it has been communicated.
‘We as councillors only heard about it once the council put it out on social media. It’s one of those blue sky thinking moments that you think of something and straight away you should throw it in the bin.
‘But for them to go and implement it is ridiculous. We are in a heatwave and they expect residents to leave food lying their for month – the stench, the stink is going to be unbelievable.’
The council believes that the ‘temporary’ measure will allow it to focus on other services over the summer and reduce unnecessary journeys.
It highlighted that less garden waste has had to be collected given the lack of rainfall in the UK this summer.
The council has told homeowners to dispose of any garden and food waste in brown bins until collection resumes.
Some water companies have failed to meet their own targets for cutting household leaks and domestic use, with many blaming the coronavirus pandemic as more people have been at home.
Ofwat, the water regulator. said in a statement: ‘Progress has been made in the past few years but there is much further to go, which is why we are pushing companies to reduce leakage, fix their environmental performance and become more financially resilient while keeping bills affordable and helping customers reduce their consumption.
‘Where we find that companies have fallen short, we will act – over the last five years, for example, we have imposed penalties and payments of over £250 million.’
It comes after temperatures reached 34.2C at Wiggonholt, West Sussex, on Thursday afternoon, while many areas in southern England and Wales hit the low 30s.
Fires broke out in different areas, including London, Essex, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Cheshire, yesterday.
The London Fire Brigade were called at 11:36am yesterday to a fire at Hollow Ponds on Whipps Cross Road in Leytonstone, where around 75 square metres of grass and shrub land were alight. Two fire engines and around 10 firefighters attended the scene and the inferno was under control around an hour later. The cause of the blaze is still being investigated.
National Highways have also urged Britons to be ‘prepared’ with bottles of water before setting out amid more train strikes scheduled this weekend.
Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna said: ‘The risk is very high across much of central, southern and eastern England. Going into Friday and the weekend, it starts to increase further, going into the highest category of exceptional risk.’
Heatwave thresholds – which are met at different temperatures in different parts of the country – are likely to be hit in much of the UK.
Temperatures reached 34.2C at Wiggonholt, West Sussex, on Thursday afternoon, and climbed above 33C in a number of places from Shropshire to the south east of England.
Met Office chief meteorologist Andy Page also said: ‘Persistent high pressure over the UK means temperatures have been rising day-on-day through this week and it is important people plan for the heat.
‘Temperatures are expected to peak at 35C on Friday and possibly 36C over the weekend.
‘We will also see increasingly warm nights, with temperatures expected not to drop below the low 20s for some places in the south.’
He said temperatures would drop early next week, with heavy showers and thunderstorms likely in some areas – but it was ‘impossible to say yet exactly where and when they will occur’.
Britain has been told to brace for a sweltering heatwave this week as a Level 3 Heat Health Alert also came into effect Tuesday and has been extended until Saturday – with little rain expected to help relieve the threat of drought which has prompted hosepipe bans and fire warnings.
Mark Hardingham, the chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) said that he ‘can’t remember a summer like this’ in his entire 32-year career in the fire service.
A cyclist braves the soaring temperatures across Britain yesterday as the Met Office has also raised its Fire Severity Index to exceptional
A woman was pictured walking near Big Ben in London yesterday as heatwaves and prolonged dry weather are damaging landscapes, gardens and wildlife, the National Trust has warned
Algal blooms are smothering parts of the Jubilee River in Slough, Berkshire yesterday. As the heatwave continues an Amber Level 3 Heat Health Alert remains in force with temperatures forecast to peak on Saturday
Firefighters put out a grass fire at Hollow Ponds in Leytonstone, East London on Thursday afternoon as parts of the UK have become a tinder box due to the extreme hot weather
Pictured: A view from the runway of Gatwick Airport sees smoke billowing in the distance from a suspected wildfire from the Crawley area earlier today. The heat and constant dry weather in the south west has risen concerns about serious drought and wildfires
He told The Telegraph: ‘We’re not going to see temperatures as hot as we saw three weeks ago, but that doesn’t matter because the ground couldn’t get any drier than it already is.
The good, the bad and downright cheeky: How cunning Brits are BEATING (and flouting) the hosepipe ban– filling up pools from their baths, taking showers standing in buckets and using ‘grey water’ from their sinks to water their plants
More than 30 million people across the UK are facing hosepipe bans as temperatures continue to soar.
The Isle of Man has had the ban in place since Friday, August 5, while Southern Water introduced it in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight yesterday. Southeast Water, which serves Kent and Sussex, will enforce the ban tomorrow.
Greater London, the Thames Valley, Surrey, Essex, Gloucestershire, and parts of Wiltshire will also face the restrictions in coming weeks.
The rule means that hosepipes cannot be connected to a main hose pipe for any reason, including watering plants, filling paddling pools or washing cars.
But savvy Brits are finding tricks to get around the ban, while others are brazenly ignoring it with some even boasting about it on social media.
One woman on TikTok was seen to be breaking the ban by attaching her hosepipe directly to her bath tap.
She then proceeded to turn on the tap and run the hose to her outdoor paddling pool.
In the video the woman can be seen miming: ‘I am not allowed, I know I am not allowed.
‘I’ve done it now, it’s too bleeding late. What they going to do? What’s going to happen?
‘Are they going to shoot me? I doubt it, they’d have to catch me first. I’m like a whippet’.
In London, one resident was caught filling up a large blue paddling pool using a public tap in St George’s Square, Pimlico. Westminster Council said in response to the local’s hack that the water is for the shrubs and plants only.
The local authority added: ‘We’d not advocate filling up pools or any other receptacle in our green spaces, especially during a heatwave.’
Drought is expected to be declared for some parts of England, as another heatwave scorches the country after months of low rainfall.
Warnings are in place over the health impacts of extreme heat and the risk of wildfires, as temperatures are expected to climb as high as 36C in some areas.
The National Drought Group – made up of Government and agency officials, water companies and other groups such as the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – is set to meet on Friday to discuss the prolonged dry weather.
There are expectations drought could be declared for the most affected areas of England in the south and east, after the driest July on record for some areas and the driest first half of the year since 1976.
The ongoing dry conditions, combined with last month’s record-breaking heatwave, have depleted rivers, reservoirs and aquifers and dried up soils, hitting agriculture, water supplies and wildlife and raising the risk of wildfires.
Declaring drought will see the Environment Agency and water companies implementing more of their plans to manage the impacts of low water levels, which can include actions such as hosepipe bans.
One cheeky Londoner decided to bring their paddling pool to St George’s Square in Pimlico, to use the council’s tap to fill it up. Westminster Council said that the water is to be used for plants and shrubs only. It added: ‘We’d not advocate filling up pools or any other receptacle in our green spaces, especially during a heatwave.’
Meanwhile gardeners across the country are finding ways to keep their precious plants hydrated.
On the latest episode of Gardeners’ World, Monty Don encouraged people to use ‘grey water’ to water their plants saying whether it’s from ‘washing up dishes or yourself is perfectly good on floral plants’.
He did, however, warn people to not use it on plants that grow food.
Some people have been showering in a bucket to collect enough grey water to chuck on their plants while others are are draining the dirty water from their washing machines.
Other gardeners found managed to pump the grey water from their showers and their baths directly into a water butt outside.
One mother-of-two revealed her sneaky hack on TikTok of emptying 150 litres of bath water into her water butt in her garden to keep her plants alive.
The video shows her pulling a hosepipe through the upstairs bathroom window and attaching it with string.
She then drains the bathwater through the pipe as her husband sucks the end of it to get the bath water flowing into the container downstairs.
In total, the dirty bath water was used to fill 15 watering cans.
Dog owners affected by the ban are also taking steps to save as much water as possible when washing their pet pooches. While others took a more comedic approach to the ban pretending to stockpile on hosepipes ahead of the ban.
Some people across social media posted sketches of them snitching on their neighbours using their hosepipes – despite the ban.
In some areas across the UK people are being urged to snitch on anyone they see flouting the water restrictions.
Two women on TikTok were seen poking fun at the advice to snitch on the people who live next door.
The video shows a woman filling up her outside paddling pool with a hose, supposedly during the hosepipe ban.
Her nosey neighbour is then spotted peering out through her back door in her dressing gown, feeling the rule-breaker on her phone.
The snitch is seen saying ‘yeh I got you, I got you on camera. I got you on candid camera now’ at which point the paddling pool owner shoves the hose in her mouth.
While others in more northern parts of the country reveled in the fact they were not affected by the ban so can continue to make ‘cooling stations’ throughout the hot summer.
TikToker Jenny Davies shared a video of her partner finding her filling up the bath with gallon-sized bottles of water. He walks in on her and asks her why she has decided to fill up the bath with bottled water.
She replied: ‘Because of the hosepipe ban. There’s a hosepipe ban in place, we are not allowed to use our water because the hosepipes are connected to our water.’
The pair continued to debate what the ban meant for another minute, with the woman insisting the hose was connected to the house water supplies.
One amused follower said: ‘I do hope this was a skit.’
Another added: ‘Is this a joke? It can’t be genuine surely?’
‘The wildfires are as prevalent in semi-urban areas as they are in rural communities so it’s difficult to know where the next one will be.’
It comes as firefighters are tackling a village field fire in Leicestershire this afternoon as temperatures soar across the county.
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service were called to reports of a ‘substantial fire involving crop’ in Sutton Cheney, north of Hinckley.
Crews were first alerted to the scene in Bosworth Road at 12.46pm yesterday and are still tackling the blaze.
People have been asked to avoid the area while the fire is dealt with. Leicestershire Police has also been called to the scene.
Meanwhile, London Fire Brigade said its control room had dealt with 340 grass, rubbish and open land fires during the first week of August – an eightfold increase on the 42 during the same week last year.
Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Smith said: ‘This summer has seen an unprecedented long, dry spell with high temperatures, so the grass in London is tinderbox dry and the smallest of sparks can start a blaze which could cause devastation.
‘Despite our continued warning over the last few weeks, we know there are still people who are barbecuing in parks, dropping cigarettes out of car windows and leaving rubbish lying around.
‘We really need to prevent a repeat of the situation we saw on July 19, when homes, shops, garages, outbuildings and vehicles were destroyed across London in a number of significant fires.
‘The professionals on the ground have been warning that these conditions are coming and we very much saw the reality of that in these last few weeks.
‘Firefighters have been injured, firefighters have ended up in hospital, we’ve seen families lose their homes, we’ve seen businesses lost, infrastructure burn to the ground, because we simply can’t get to these fires quick enough.
‘When we do, we simply don’t have the resources to deal with them adequately.’
Labour accused the Tories of putting ‘the smoke alarm on snooze’ as wildfires break out across the country, with ‘woeful’ resilience planning to the extreme heat.
And Riccardo la Torre, national officer of the Fire Brigades Union, accused the Government and fire chiefs of pressing ahead with cutting jobs.
He said firefighters were making ‘phenomenal’ efforts to deal with the outbreak of summer fires, claiming that fire services were unprepared for the crisis.
Climate change is making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely – with July’s record temperatures of more than 40C for the first time for the UK made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming, and ‘virtually impossible’ without it, research shows.
Scientists also say droughts are becoming more likely due to human-driven climate change, warning of the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and take steps to prepare the UK for the impacts of rising temperatures.
Mike Childs, head of research at Friends of the Earth, said the climate crisis was ‘hitting home’ this summer.
‘As another health-threatening heatwave hits the UK, rivers and reservoirs run dry and drought threatens our food and water supplies, a deepening cost of living crisis is set to leave millions more people unable to afford their energy bills,’ he said.
He said it was ‘utterly baffling’ the candidates were not grabbing green solutions, as he called for investment in the UK’s renewable potential and kicking starting an insulation programme to keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer.
Jonathan Smith, assistant commissioner at London Fire Brigade, has said ‘we’re not out of the woods as far as this heatwave is concerned’, as he urged people to avoid using disposable barbecues and take care when extinguishing cigarettes.
Mr Smith added: ‘We’re urging the public to think about and modify their behaviour over the course of the next four days in particular to take that pressure off the emergency services… we’re not out of the woods as far as this heatwave is concerned.’
Meanwhile, Met Office boss Paul Davies said the increasing heatwave temperatures may now occur once every five years – and annually by the end of the century.
He told The Mirror: ‘When I started out as a forecaster, if someone had said in your lifetime you’ll see 40 degrees, I’d have said; ‘No, surely not!’.
‘We are in uncharted waters. We’re entering areas we’ve never experienced before and it’s not just the UK, it’s the planet as a whole.’
An Oxfordshire village has also become the first in Britain to run dry, with residents forced to rely on deliveries of bottled and tanker water.
Northend, on the Buckinghamshire border, usually gets its water from the now dried-up Stokenchurch Reservoir.
Thames Water had to send water tankers and bottles to its residents, struggling after high demand on the natural resource in recent hot weeks.
The company has also recently announced it will be issuing a hosepipe ban for 15million customers across London, Surrey and Gloucestershire in the coming weeks.
A Thames Water spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We’re sorry to customers in the Stokenchurch area who are experiencing lower pressure than normal due to technical issues with our Stokenchurch reservoir.
‘We have a team on site working hard to resolve this as soon as possible and the situation is improving and supplies have been restored to customers.
‘We’re using tankers to help boost supplies to customers in Northend to keep up water pressures for these customers so they do not see supply issues as well as delivering water bottles.
‘Customers may experience lower than normal pressure during periods of higher demand.
‘These times are typically in the morning and during the early evening.
‘We’ve also identified everyone in the affected area who has pre-registered with us as having special requirements, such as being medically reliant on water, so we can get in touch and make sure we give them the help and support they need.
‘We realise how inconvenient this is, especially during such hot weather, and appreciate customers’ patience as we work to resolve things’
Last night Andrew Sells, head of Natural England between 2014 and 2019, accused water companies of selling off reservoirs which could have helped ease drought to housing developers.
‘Several of our water companies preferred to build houses on some of their reservoirs, and last week we learned that together they have built precisely zero new reservoirs in the past 30 years’, he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
‘No doubt some reservoirs had reached the end of their working lives, but in abandoning this infrastructure, without any replacements, they have again put short-term profits ahead of long-term supply.’
The Met Office also predicted the extreme heat will become more commonplace in the coming years as global warming continues.
Professor Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Reading, said: ‘The warnings for extreme heat from both the Met Office and the heat health alert issued by the UK Health Security Agency are another reminder that this summer in the UK is proving to be lethally hot.
‘Compared to the July record-breaking heat, this event will be less intense but last longer, which could actually have a greater impact on people’s health.
‘This heatwave might not break any records for maximum temperatures, but it might actually cause more deaths.’
Climate change is making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely, with last month’s record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming and ‘virtually impossible’ without it, research shows.
Scientists also warn the likelihood of droughts occurring is becoming higher due to climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.
Government minister Paul Scully said it is ‘always sensible’ for people to conserve water, when asked about the possibility of a hosepipe ban for London.
He added: ‘But we’ll look carefully because the whole point about London and the South East is that the more development you have and the less rainfall there is, then obviously there’s less to go around and we’ve got to be careful.’