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7 June 2012, Thames Water Press Release

Hosepipe ban set to be lifted 'sooner rather than later' for Thames Water customers

Thames Water expects to be able to lift the hosepipe ban for its customers sooner than expected – provided the topsy-turvy British weather doesn’t take “an unexpectedly Saharan twist,” it was announced today.

Britain’s biggest water company, which supplies 8.8m people in London and the Thames Valley, gave customers the good news about prospects for the Temporary Use Ban as the Environment Agency confirmed that exceptionally heavy rainfall in April and May had eased concerns about surface water and some groundwater sources.

Customers’ strong response to the drought and their help in saving water has also directly helped reduce the strain on resources.

Anglian Water, serving 4.3m customers in East Anglia and the Midlands, and Southern Water, which serves 2m customers in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, are both in a similar position to Thames Water.

The other companies which have imposed Temporary Use Bans - South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water and Veolia Water - are much more heavily dependent on groundwater sources, which the Environment Agency report makes clear have in many cases seen little or no benefit from the spring rainfall.

This means they will not be in a similar position to the companies with substantial surface water resources to draw on.

Richard Aylard, Sustainability Director for Thames Water, said:

“The record spring rainfall has eased the situation considerably. The River Thames provides 70% of the water we supply to our customers and levels are now where we would expect them to be at this time of the year, and our reservoirs are still full.

“In addition we have had excellent cooperation from our customers, both in observing the restrictions and in using water wisely, and we are currently beating our leakage target by more than 60 million litres a day.

"However, the levels in many of the natural underground reservoirs we also draw on, and which keep rivers flowing throughout the year, are still very low and are unlikely to recover until there is sustained winter rainfall.

"Taking everything into account, we need a little longer to be sure that we will have enough water to get us through the summer and autumn without restrictions. We will however not keep the restrictions in place for a moment longer than is necessary, and will update our customers again on the situation towards the end of June.

“But unless the topsy-turvy British weather delivers an unexpectedly Saharan twist, we no longer expect to need to keep the ban in place right through to the autumn.

He added: “Come rain or shine, however, we would urge all our customers to continue to use water wisely. It does make a real difference.

"In the longer term, we share the concerns expressed by the Environment Agency about the possibility of a third dry winter in succession.

"At this stage of the year, only sustained winter rainfall will now provide a further top up of the natural underground reserves which underpin the supply of water to both rivers and our customers. These reserves are still very low in many places and if we don't have something close to average rainfall over the winter we can't rule out the need for restrictions again next year."

Following the two driest years ever recorded, seven companies imposed Temporary Use Bans on April 5.

Within 24 hours of the restrictions coming into force, the heavens opened and stayed open for six weeks, delivering 262% of average rainfall for April in the Thames region, and following up with frequent showers in May.

The spring rain boosted flows in the Thames region’s rivers, which allowed the company's surface reservoirs to be topped up and kept full.

Not all companies are likely to be able to lift their Temporary Use Bans at the same time as they all draw their water from different sources, and must plan accordingly. Companies which take most of their water from underground are likely to have to keep bans in place for longer.