UK government declares drought for swaths of England

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The U.K. government’s environmental agency officially declared a drought on Friday in eight out of 14 areas across England.

In practice, moving to drought status means that the Environment Agency and water companies will start implementing their pre-agreed drought plans, and face fewer barriers to ban people from using hosepipes and washing their car with tap water. Companies in those regions can now also apply for drought permits to extract more water from rivers and reservoirs.

The official drought areas are Devon and Cornwall, Solent and South Downs, Kent and South London, Herts and North London, East Anglia, Thames, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and the East Midlands.

The announcement was made after a meeting of the National Drought group, made up of member of the Environment Agency, water companies and key representative groups. At the meeting, the Environment Agency said the drought trigger threshold had been met for parts of England. The last time a drought was declared in the U.K. was in 2018.

“All water companies have reassured us that essential supplies are still safe,” said Environment Minister Steve Double.

“The current high temperatures we are experiencing have exacerbated pressures on wildlife and our water environment,” added Environment Agency Executive Director Harvey Bradshaw.

The U.K. is experiencing its driest eight-month period in almost 50 years. July was the driest month in England in over a century.