Hosepipe bans lifted in wake of downpours

HOSEPIPE bans which were implemented by three of the country’s biggest water firms have today been lifted following weeks of heavy rain.

Thames Water, Southern Water and Anglian – which supply water as far north as north Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire – removed the restrictions, which had been in place since early April, at midnight.

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

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But the restrictions were followed by record rainfall across the UK in April and more downpours in May and the beginning of June, leading to flooding in some areas.

Communities across the region were among those badly hit, with villages in North Yorkshire experiencing flash flooding on Saturday and fire crews in South Yorkshire receiving 75 calls for help on Sunday night alone from parts of Barnsley and Sheffield, while the M1 was closed near Leeds after a torrential downpour.

Anglian Water’s director of water services, Paul Valleley, said: “There’s no way we could have predicted it, but in some places we had three times the average rainfall in April. Crucially, it fell just within the traditional ‘recharge’ season – the time of the year when there is less competition for water from the environment, and much of what falls ends up in reservoirs and aquifers.

“Effectively, we had three months worth of ‘winter rain’ in April. This was followed by a wet and cool May and June.

“The persistent rain and low temperatures have extended the recharge season into the early summer, and this has made all the difference.”

In its latest drought briefing last week, the Environment Agency said the wet weather had “significantly” reduced the risk of drought and widespread water restrictions this summer.

River levels and reservoir stocks have improved significantly and further water restrictions for the public and businesses are unlikely to be imposed, the Government agency said.

But groundwater levels are still well below normal in some areas, and companies that rely primarily on underground aquifers for supplies are maintaining their hosepipe bans.

Meanwhile, work has begun on new flood protection measures in Barnsley, it was announced yesterday.

This comes after the Environment Agency provided a £320,000 grant for the works in the Darfield area after the disastrous 2007 floods.

Residents living in Doncaster Road, Riverside Close, Cliff Road and Church View will be offered a range of “flood resilience measures” such as door guards and air- brick covers to make their homes more robust against future inundation.

A spokesman for Barnsley Council said yesterday: “This work is now taking place at more than 70 properties in Darfield.

“Properties are being fitted with made-to-measure door barriers, airbrick covers and non-return valves for waste water systems.

“Each property has been surveyed to determine the flood resilience measures needed.”