Hosepipe Bans Lifted After 'Freakish' Rain

The final four water companies with hosepipe bans have announced they are lifting them with immediate effect - as even more wet weather is predicted for July.

South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Veolia Water Central and Veolia Water Southeast said the restrictions that have been in place since early April have now ended following the "abnormally heavy rainfall" that has deluged much of the country.

The latest summer downpours saw more than a month's worth of rain fall across the UK in 24 hours, flooding buildings, swelling rivers and streams and wreaking havoc on road and rail networks.

Severe flood warnings were issued over the weekend, leading to massive clean-up operations, particularly in the South West and the Midlands.

The worst of the wet weather is thought to now be over, but further downpours are expected across the country in the coming days.

Seven water companies across southern and eastern England had brought in the hosepipe bans after two unusually dry winters left some groundwater supplies and rivers as low as in the drought year of 1976.

But Thames Water, Anglian Water and Southern Water all removed the restrictions last month - now known to be the wettest June since records began.

Double the average rain fell during the month while April was the wettest in records dating back more than a century to 1910.

A joint statement from the four companies said they were heavily dependent on ground water supplies but these have now recovered sufficiently to enable them to lift the bans.

It said: "The companies would all like to thank their customers for complying with the restrictions and supporting their plea to use water wisely. This has kept demand for water well below levels normally experienced at this time of year.

"Significant, or indeed any, recharge of underground resources at this time of year is most unusual but it follows the abnormally heavy rainfall experienced since spring which has finally brought to an end the severe drought after two dry winters."

Paul Seeley, asset director at South East Water, said: "All four companies are delighted to be able to lift restrictions across their entire supply areas much earlier than they expected and return to a normal service for customers.

Mike Hegarty, operations director for Sutton and East Surrey Water, said the hosepipe ban was expected to have been kept in place for the duration of the summer.

He added: "The recharge in the aquifers brought about by the abnormally heavy spring rainfall is most welcome.

"Normally winter rainfall recharges the aquifers. The recharge is unprecedented and is the highest increase in water levels ever recorded in our area at this time of year."

Mike Pocock, water resources manager at Veolia Water Central, added: "We would ask customers to please continue to use water wisely.

"While most welcome, this recovery in the aquifers does not remove the underlying problems caused by the drought and we are continuing to plan for the possibility of a third dry winter."