Hosepipe ban across Norfolk, Waveney and the Fens to stay despite April and May rainfall
The hosepipe ban in East Anglia will remain in place despite heavy rain in April and May, Anglian Water has said today.
Peter Simpson, the water company's managing director, has also urged residents to continue to use water wisely following the latest Environment Agency (EA) report into the ongoing water shortage.
The report shows water levels in rivers have responded to recent exceptionally wet weather, but it also warns that many groundwater sources could remain low and under stress for the rest of the year.
The ban was introduced by Anglian Water after warning that the driest 18-month period in more than a century had left reserves desperately low.
But the restriction introduced early in April was followed by record rainfall across the UK for that month, and more rain in May.
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Mr Simpson said: 'The possibility of a warm summer and a third dry winter is still a concern for our region. The very wet few weeks we experienced in April followed two exceptionally dry years, and most importantly, two dry winters.
'It was following this prolonged dry period that we introduced the hosepipe ban, and it was not a decision we took lightly. It was an essential step to safeguard water supplies for this year, and next.
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'That long, dry spell left water levels in reservoirs, rivers and underground aquifers significantly below normal – and in some cases historically low.
'April's downpours and May's average rainfall went quite some way towards replenishing supplies, particularly in our reservoirs. But as the Environment Agency's report highlights, some groundwater reserves remain under stress.'
The Environment Agency has said it expects companies to continue working with customers to save water, and to keep hosepipe bans in place until they are absolutely sure water supplies are secure.
Mr Simpson continued: 'Almost half of the water we put into supply comes from groundwater sources, particularly in the east of our region. The full impact of the recent rain on these sources remains to be seen, largely because our aquifers refill naturally and more slowly.
'We don't want to keep the hosepipe ban in place for a day longer than we have to, and we're keeping the situation under constant review. However, restrictions remain in place for now.
'We are also continuing to do what we can; tackling leaks and investing in schemes to improve the storage and movement of water around our network.
'We're delighted our customers have recognised the need to save water, and their efforts are making a real difference in our efforts to beat the drought.
'However, the possibility of a hot summer and a third dry winter is still a concern. This region is dry, even in an average year, so saving water is as crucial as ever.'
A spokesman for Anglian Water today added the water company 'would not speculate' on how long the hosepipe ban will remain across the region.
He added: 'It is very easy to remember it hammered it down in April and it is very easy to forget up to the beginning of April, we had the driest 12 -months in a century.
'The very fact it makes the news when it rains just shows how unusual it still is. Things are much better but we are not clear of the woods.'
Farmers are unlikely to be hit by restrictions on spray irrigation this summer, the Environment Agency said.
Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: 'We have seen a huge improvement in water resources in just a few short months, putting us in a much more positive position for the summer.
'While the downpours in April were pretty miserable, they were really welcome as water companies were able to refill their reservoirs, river levels are mostly back to normal, and many wildlife habitats that were suffering have recovered.
'But while the risk of drought with further water restrictions and associated environmental impacts this summer has reduced, the situation could deteriorate again next year if there is not enough rain this winter.
'We are still working with partners, planning for the impacts that a third dry winter could have on next year's water supplies.'
Thames Water, which serves 8.8 million customers in London and the Thames Valley area, said unless the weather takes 'an unexpectedly Saharan twist', it no longer expected to keep its ban in place through to the autumn.
Meanwhile Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has said: 'The Environment Agency continues to keep the drought under constant review so that no area has restrictions placed upon them if they are not necessary.
'People should use water wisely - we must start to recognise it as the precious resource it is.'