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Drought Reaches East And South Yorkshire As Dry Weather Continues (PICTURES)

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More areas of the country are in drought following another dry month which has hit rivers and groundwater supplies, the Environment Agency said today.

Swathes of East and South Yorkshire from Chesterfield up to Scarborough are officially suffering from drought, with areas around Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull and Driffield affected.

The areas join the South East and eastern England in drought, most of which has been affected since earlier this year, although parts of East Anglia have been suffering drought conditions since last summer.

Earlier this month seven water companies across east and southern England announced hosepipe bans would come into force before Easter in a bid to conserve water supplies in the face of two unusually dry winters.

Southern Water, South East Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East all brought in restrictions on water use in the drought-stricken South East and East Anglia regions.

But while the rivers Don, Rother, Hull and Derwent are at low or very low levels for the time of year, the Environment Agency said public water supplies were unlikely to be affected in the region.

Yorkshire Water said it did not anticipate any restrictions such as hosepipe bans at the moment.

The company said its reservoirs were at 94%, which was normal for the time of year, but groundwater levels in East Yorkshire were around a fifth below usual levels.

As a result the amount of water being taken from aquifers had been reduced and Hull's water supply was being supported by water drawn from the River Derwent.

In a statement, the company said: "As the dry weather continues, we will be keeping the local water resource situation under constant review.

"Our regional water supply system gives us flexibility, what it doesn't give us is an unlimited supply of water, so we would always encourage our customers to only use what they need, when they need it."

Some parts of Yorkshire have seen the driest 12 months since 1910 and river levels are continuing to fall, prompting the Environment Agency to urge farmers and businesses taking water from rivers to use supplies wisely.

Trevor Bishop, head of water resources, said: "Today south and east Yorkshire have moved into official drought status, reflecting the impact that this extremely dry period is having on the environment in the area.

"The Environment Agency must balance the water needs of people, farmers, businesses and the environment and we are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought."

The news of drought conditions spreading to Yorkshire comes after the Environment Agency warned that drought would affect more parts of the country without well-above average rainfall in the coming weeks.

And in its latest update last week, the agency said England and Wales had experienced another dry week, and in addition to areas in drought parts of the south west and Midlands were also experiencing dry conditions.

The outlook for Wales remained normal, although an exceptionally dry spring and summer could see that change, the EA warned.

The Environment Agency has had to take steps to protect wildlife in the face of drought, including staging a fish rescue from the River Welland in Lincolnshire this week, moving fish threatened by low water levels to another, deeper part of the river.

The news of the drought spreading comes as the Environment Department (Defra) launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the connection between the health of England's rivers and people's water use.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: "It's especially important that we care for our rivers when they're facing the added pressure of drought, as well as the constant threats they face from over-use and pollution.

"The fact that so many organisations have come together to back this campaign shows the depth of feeling about this issue, and the importance we all place on making sure our actions don't damage our rivers."

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