The drought is spreading across England with areas in the Midlands and South West declared in danger of water shortages in the latest report from the Environment Agency
Some rivers and groundwater levels are lower than during the drought of 1976 Photo: SWNS
Earlier this week the the South East joined most of East Anglia in a state of drought. The soil moisture deficit recorded for East Anglia of 51mm is the driest recorded for this time of year and could mean a very poor harvest for the "bed basket of Britain".
Now the Environment Agency say areas of central and south west England and south east Yorkshire are at risk because of dry weather and extremely low groundwater levels.
There is very little time left for groundwater levels to be restored by rainfall this winter before the growing season begins again, and the risk in drought in the spring and the summer in those areas is very high.
The Environment Agency also said dry weather is continuing in the south and east of England, with eastern parts receiving just 27 per cent of February's average rainfall so far this month.
The drought is continuing to dry up domestic boreholes in eastern England, while on the River Meon in Hampshire, the Environment Agency has responded to fish kills and distressed fish, thought to be due to low river flows.
Some 30 sea trout and six salmon have been reported dead.
British Waterways has lowered the water level on the Grand Union Canal at Tring Summit, closing it to through passage.
The drought conditions, which come after two dry winters in a row, have raised the prospect of hosepipe bans in the coming weeks.
Households across all the affected areas are being asked to save water by taking shorter showers and not washing cars or watering lawns with a hosepipe.
Helen Vale, national drought co-ordinator, for the Environment Agency, said saving water now could help ease restrictions later in the summer.
"With the south east of England moving formally to drought this week and many parts of England at high risk, it's more important than ever that we all use water wisely," she said.
"The Environment Agency must balance the water needs of people, businesses and the environment.
"We are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought."
The Environment Agency will be publishing a report in March, looking at the prospects of drought in the spring and summer.
It will also be looking at the possibility of a third dry winter affecting drought-afflicted areas. It has been suggested that water companies should be setting up a "national water grid" that will allow water to be transported from wet areas to dry areas. It will not be across huge areas and will be cheaper than desalination, which is another option.