The Environment Agency has warned Britons to prepare for future extreme weather after flooding hit parts of England and Wales one in every five days last year.

From deluge to drought, Britons were forced to deal with both extremes with hosepipe bans imposed for 20 million people across a swathe of England early in the year after two dry winters in a row. One in four days were spent in drought in 2012.

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Ardingly Resevoir in West Sussex, which at one point this year stood at only 12% of its capacity.

Rivers such as the Tyne, Ouse and Tone went from record low levels to experiencing their highest flows since records began, in the space of four months, the Environment Agency said.

There was flooding on 78 days of the year, and for 95 days there was official drought declared for some areas, figures from the government agency show.

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A house in Dura Den in Fife was almost swept away by the weight of the flood water after almost 36 hours of rain

Met Office analysis suggests that the UK could experience a 1976-style drought every 10 years, and the Environment Agency said that with the population of London and the South East set to grow by 23% by 2035, action should be taken now.

Modelling suggests some river flows could be cut by up to 80% during the summer in the next 40 years as the climate changes, putting more pressure on businesses that rely on taking water from rivers for irrigation.

michael cowlam

Artist Joyce Cairns told STV: "I have stayed in the village for 33 years and I have seen wild storms but never anything as bad as this."

The Environment Agency called for an increase in small-scale water storage reservoirs, which can take advantage of wet times and help farmers, commercial turf growers, golf clubs, sports stadiums and race courses cope with dry periods.

There are currently around 1,700 such water storage reservoirs in England and Wales, supplying around 30% of irrigation needs, but they will need to increase as the UK faces more extreme weather as the climate changes, the agency said.

Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith said: "The extremes of weather that we saw last year highlight the urgent need to plan for a changing climate.

"In 2012 we saw environmental damage caused by rivers with significantly reduced flows, hosepipe bans affecting millions and farmers and businesses left unable to take water from rivers.

"But we also saw the wettest year on record in England, with around 8,000 homes flooded.

"Interestingly 2007 - which also saw some of the most severe flooding in recent memory - also started the year with hosepipe bans.

"More of this extreme weather will exacerbate many of problems that we already deal with including flooding and water scarcity, so taking action today to prepare and adapt homes, businesses, agricultural practices and infrastructure is vital."

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  • Freezing Fog And Frost Hit The UK

    WELLS, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 12: The sun rises over frozen fields near Wells on December 12, 2012 in Somerset, England. Forecasters have warned that the UK could experience the coldest day of the year so far today, with temperatures dropping as low as -14C, bringing widespread ice, harsh frosts and freezing fog. Travel disruption is expected with warnings for heavy snow in some parts of the country. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

  • Spring weather - May 23

    Office staff and shoppers enjoy a lunch in the sun in Manchester city centre as the warm weather continues across the UK.

  • Spring weather - May 25

    A woman checks her mobile phone in the sun as she sits in St James Park, London, as the warm weather continues across the UK.

  • ireland, north, belfast, botanic gardens with people relaxing in the sun....

    ireland, north, belfast, botanic gardens with people relaxing in the sun.

  • ireland, north, belfast, botanic gardens with people relaxing in the sun....

    ireland, north, belfast, botanic gardens with people relaxing in the sun.

  • Autumn weather Nov 3

    The sun sets over Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, Nottingham. The coal-fired power station is operated by E.ON UK.

  • Winter weather December 2nd

    The sun rises over a frozen path at Birdlip Hill, Gloucestershire, as cold weather sweeps across the UK with snow expected this evening.

  • Spring weather - April 3rd

    Dan Cascarino moves his snow covered sun lounger which he was using during last weeks heat-wave at his home near Auchterarder, as more than six inches of snow fell in the space of four hours in parts of Scotland overnight as an Arctic weather front bore down on the UK.

  • Widespread Frost As The UK Braces Itself For Severe Cold Weather

    KNUTSFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: An aircaft makes its approach to Manchester Airport as cold weather accentuates the steam from a grass dryer in the Cheshire countryside on December 11, 2012 in Knutsford, England. Forecasters are warning that the UK could experience the coldest day of the year so far tomorrow, as temperatures could drop as low as -14C, bringing widespread ice, harsh frosts and freezing fog. Travel disruption is expected with warnings for heavy snow. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Water Cascades past houses in Newburn, Newcastle today after yesterdays floods left them in a state of collapse.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Water Cascades past houses in Newburn, Newcastle today after yesterdays floods left them in a state of collapse.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    An aerial view showing cars travelling along the A64 Scarborough to Leeds road as it passes over flood water from the River Ouse in York, North Yorkshire, communities are being warned of the possibility of more flooding after the most intense September storm for decades left 400 homes and businesses flooded and caused widespread chaos.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    An aerial view showing the village of Sutton upon Derwent, East Yorkshire, surrounded by flood water from the nearby River Derwent as communities are being warned of the possibility of more flooding after the most intense September storm for decades left 400 homes and businesses flooded and caused widespread chaos.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    The High Street, in Newburn, Newcastle, where flooding has left business owners devastated and deposited huge amounts of mud and debris.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    The High Street, in Newburn, Newcastle, where flooding has left business owners devastated and deposited huge amounts of mud and debris.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Two actors from a tourist attraction The York Dungeon, make their way into work along a flooded street in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Residents carry sandbags to riverside properties in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Riverside offices were difficult to access with rising floodwater in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Floodwater rises in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Floodwaters rise in city centre streets in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A car submerged from yesterday's floods in Newburn in Newcastle.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A car submerged from yesterday's floods in Newburn in Newcastle. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 26, 2012. Communities are being warned of the possibility of more flooding after the most intense September storm for decades left homes and businesses flooded and caused widespread chaos. See PA story WEATHER Wet PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Owen Humpreys/PA Wire

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A car submerged from yesterday's floods in Newburn in Newcastle. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 26, 2012. Communities are being warned of the possibility of more flooding after the most intense September storm for decades left homes and businesses flooded and caused widespread chaos. See PA story WEATHER Wet PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday September 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Owen Humpreys/PA Wire

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    The fields surrounding Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire are flooded following countrywide storms.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Flooding in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Natalie Stroughair sandbags a taxi office in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather Nov 3

    The sun sets over Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, Nottingham. The coal-fired power station is operated by E.ON UK.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    The bridge in the centre of Tadcaster which has been closed as flood waters from the River Wharfe continue rise.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A woman gets a piggy back ride to a Taxi Office in the centre of York, as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Watching the floodwater rise in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Office workers are evacuated from their premises in York city centre as floodwater rises in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Rescuers bid to save ailing whale

    A 26ft (8m) minke whale washed up after gale force winds and high seas at Druridge Bay, Northumberland.

  • Rescuers bid to save ailing whale

    A 26ft (8m) minke whale washed up after gale force winds and high seas at Druridge Bay, Northumberland.

  • Rescuers bid to save ailing whale

    A 26ft (8m) minke whale washed up after gale force winds and high seas at Druridge Bay, Northumberland.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A car drives through flood water on Noahs Ark Lane, Mobberley, Cheshire.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Watching the water levels rise as riverside properties in York are under threat from the River Ouse which continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Natalie Stroughair sandbags a taxi office in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Council workers sandbag riverside properties in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A man looks over rising flood water from the River Wharfe in the centre of Tadcaster, North Yorkshire.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Watching the floodwater rise in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Watching the floodwater rise in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Elevated walkways carry pedestrians over floodwater in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A local riverside resident carries tea to Council workers who were placing sandbags at riverside properties in York as the River Ouse continues to rise today following the torrential rainfalls of the past few days.

  • Autumn weather September 25th

    A resident of Knaresborough wades through water following flooding from the River Nidd in the town.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A car makes its way through Rickerby Park in Carlisle after more heavy overnight rain.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Water surrounds the 18th green at Stoney Holme golf course in Carlisle after more heavy rain overnight.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Water covers the fairways at Stoney Holme golf course in Carlisle after more heavy overnight rain.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    Flood water covers grassy areas of Rickerby Park in Carlisle after more heavy overnight rain.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A cyclist avoids flood water on the closed A34 near Alderley Edge, Cheshire.

  • Autumn weather September 25th

    A resident of Knaresborough wades through water following flooding from the River Nidd in the town.

  • Autumn weather September 26th

    A van is forced to turn around after flood water closed the A34 near Alderley Edge, Cheshire.