FARMS are being urged to share water after drought measures were announced across the Advertiser and Review region this week.
Seven water companies, including Anglian Water and Thames Water, will bring in hosepipe bans for domestic customers on April 5.
The Environment Agency is also advising farmers to share water resources by setting up water abstractor groups and to take steps to improve water efficiency.
Peter Simpson, managing director of Anglian Water, said: “This is the first time Anglian Water has imposed a hosepipe ban in more than 20 years, but we believe this is the most sensible and responsible action to take to help safeguard customer supplies for this year, next year and beyond.
“Our region has had its driest 18 months for a century, including two dry winters which have robbed us of the rainfall we need to refill rivers, reservoirs and aquifers.”
The Environment Agency’s Drought Prospects report, published yesterday, warns the drought could spread to Yorkshire and the Hampshire-Wiltshire border if dry weather continues this spring.
Fruit, vegetable and salad growers may be affected, the Environment Agency says, and there will be less water available for livestock, especially housed pigs and poultry.
The report also calls on water companies to follow the agency’s drought plans, and to show they are reducing leakage from their networks.
Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said: “We are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to meet the challenges of a continued drought.
“Our report urges water companies, farmers and other businesses to look again at ways to improve short-term water storage, share water resources where possible, and reduce the amount they and their customers use.
“A prolonged drought will have long-term impacts on wildlife and habitats. The Environment Agency is actively monitoring the environmental impact of the drought and will take action to mitigate these impacts wherever possible.”
Boating on the Oxford and Grand Union Canal could be restricted during the main boating season from April to October, and some plant and animal species could be lost temporarily from wetland sites, the Environment Agency warns.