More areas declared drought zones

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The Environment Agency has declared official drought zones in a further 17 English counties and warned the shortages could now last until Christmas or beyond.

The Government agency has extended the country’s “drought map” into the Midlands and the South West, although a spokeswoman last night said there were no plans to widen it further into Yorkshire, where an official state of drought was last month declared in eastern and southern parts of the region.

Officials stress that public water supplies are unlikely to be affected by the drought, but are reiterating calls for households to use scarce water wisely.

Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: “A longer term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely.

“While we’ve had some welcome rain recently, the problem has not gone away, and we would urge everyone – right across the country – to use water wisely now, which will help to prevent more serious impacts next year.”

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “As more areas of the UK move into drought it is vital that we use less water to protect the public’s water supply in the driest areas of the country.

“It is for everyone to share the responsibility to save water. We are asking everyone to help by using less water and starting now.”

The new official drought zones are Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, parts of Hampshire, and most of Wiltshire.