South-East England declares a state of Drought

Drought declared in south-east England

The River Kennet in Wiltshire has dried up completely west of Marlborough

20 February 2012 Last updated at 14:31

The south-east of England is officially in a state of drought, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced.

The announcement came as Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman hosted a drought summit.

In parts of south-east England groundwater levels are lower than in the infamously dry summer of 1976.

Water companies, farmers and wildlife groups discussed the situation at the summit.

Thames Water says there is a high chance of a hosepipe ban this summer, unless there is heavy rainfall or a marked reduction in the use of water by customers.

The South East joins parts of eastern England which have been in a drought situation since last summer.

The situation contrasts markedly with Scotland where reservoirs are between 93% and 97% full.

Ms Spelman said she wanted water companies to look at the possibility of connecting pipe networks so they could transfer water from wetter parts of the country.

Severn Trent’s water director, Andy Smith, said: “I would agree that we should be looking at interconnecting the networks between the various water companies.

“What has happened quite understandably is each water company has tended to focus on its own area.

“And we believe that there will be opportunities with relatively small levels of investment to make inter-connections between different organisations to try and get the water from the north and the west where it’s relatively wet down to the south and the east.”

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