Londoners have been slapped with a hosepipe ban under strict rules as water levels in reservoirs plummet.
Thames Water, which supplies 15 million people, on Wednesday became the latest company to introduce the rule which will take effect on August 24, and it said demand for water from thirsty Britons is at “record levels”.
A drought was last week declared across most of England after the driest July for 50 years and the lowest amount of rain during the first half of the year since 1976.
London and parts of southern England have experienced two days of rain and thunderstorms, and more has been forecast for Wednesday, but Thames Water said its reserves were still “much lower than usual”.
In imposing a ban on hosepipes, Thames Water joined a string of other companies, including Welsh Water, Southern Water and South East Water, which have brought in water-saving measures. South West Water and Yorkshire Water will impose similar restrictions on August 23 and 26, respectively. The policies mean more than 29.4 million customers across Britain will be prohibited from using hosepipes from the end of next week.
In a statement, Thames Water said the low level of rainfall forecast for the coming weeks means the ban is needed as part of its drought plan.
Drought in Britain - in pictures
“We have more teams reducing leakage than ever before, working 24/7 to find and fix more than 1,100 leaks every week,” Thames Water said. “The recent heatwaves mean that demand for water is also at record levels.
“We’ve been working around the clock to supply everyone, and customers have been brilliant at saving water where they can. But, with low rainfall forecast for the coming months, we now need to take the next step in our drought plan. Everything we do now will help protect supplies next summer and help the environment.
“We know these restrictions impact your day-to-day activities around your home and beyond, and we’re grateful for your support.”
Flood alerts have been issued by the Environment Agency for 10 boroughs in the capital.
Londoners were this week hit by a sudden change in weather following last week’s heatwave as thunderstorms rolled in.
The Met Office issued an amber alert for thunderstorms on Wednesday covering a swathe of England from Chichester to Ipswich and including London and all of Kent. Meteorologists have predicted 20-30mm of rain will batter the regions within an hour.
Thunderstorms and heavy rain bring Britain's heatwave to an end - in pictures
The warning, which runs from 11am to 10pm, said flooding of homes and businesses was “likely”, with damage to some buildings from floodwater, lightning strikes, hail or strong winds.
Fast flowing or deep floodwater is also said to be “likely, causing danger to life”.
London and much of the South is set for a drier period later in the week, with temperatures forecast to reach 24°C in the capital on Friday.
The Environment Agency has said the short blast of rain will not be enough to address the issue of low water supplies, and it will take weeks of rain to replenish supplies in reservoirs.