When the hosepipe bans first appeared back in April, they were supposed to last all summer. Following successive dry winters and some early spring sunshine, all the talk was of water shortages and drought management. Nature however has had other ideas. After over two months of relentless rain - some of which has been so intense that the phrase 'a months rain in a day' is turning up far to often for comfort - the last of the hosepipe bans have been lifted.
South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Veolia Water Central and Veolia Water Southeast have lifted their bans. Between them they cover all or part of a number of counties in the south and south-east of England, including Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.The other main water providers Anglian Water, Southern Water and Thames Water lifted their bans in June. The announcement comes after a weekend in which a yet more of communities across Britain were hit by flooding following torrential downpours.
In a joint statement, the four water companies said ground water supplies, on which they are heavily dependant, had recovered enough for the bans to be lifted. The statement also thanked the companies customers for their co-operation: "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," it continued. "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."
Mike Hegarty, operations director for Sutton and East Surrey Water, 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."
However, Mike Pocock, water resources manager at Veolia Water Central, struck a note of caution and urged customers to 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," he said.
So for the moment we are free to unroll the hoses again. But a quick glance at the unpredictable nature of the weather in recent times, how long before they have to be consigned to the back to the garden shed again is anybody's guess.