The UK government on Friday declared a state of drought in eight out of the 14 areas of England with consequent restrictions on domestic and commercial water use for residents in those areas, reports Europapress.
Dry conditions and unusually hot temperatures have continued to affect areas of western Europe, including the United Kingdom. The country also experienced the driest month of July since 1935, informs The Guardian.
The affected areas include parts of the Southwest, South and Central England and across the East of England, namely: Devon, Cornwall, Cornwall, the Solent, the South Downs, Kent, south and north London, Herts, East Anglia, the Thames region, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and the East Midlands region.
In central, southern and eastern England, river flows are forecast to remain exceptionally low until at least October. Experts have warned that the dry conditions could continue into the new year even if rainfall returns.
The UK government statement, reported by Sky News, urges residents and businesses in the affected areas to be "acutely aware" of the current pressure on resources and is asking them to consume water "wisely".
"We are better prepared than ever for periods of dry weather, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely, including the impacts on farmers and the environment, and take further action as necessary," said Water Resources Minister Steven Double.
Five water firms have announced hosepipe bans so far. On Friday, Yorkshire Water Services Ltd became the fourth UK company to impose a ban on the use of hoses for watering gardens or washing cars from 26 August. Yorkshire Water serves 5.4 million people and 140,000 businesses, according to its website.
Thunderstorms have hit the country since Sunday and are due to end on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the Met Office has said these storms will do little to alleviate the dry conditions, as rain runs off dry and compacted soil, and flash flooding is possible.
However, the drought is not just affecting the UK. Data from the end of July show that 47% of EU countries are facing drought warning conditions and 17% are at alert levels, according to the European Drought Observatory.
Forest fires have broken out in France as it endures a third heatwave and its worst drought on record. The German state weather service DWD has also warned that in some areas there is a very high risk of forest fires.