Enforce hosepipe ban or face queues for bottled water, advisers warn

A national hosepipe ban should be enforced in order to prevent people having to queue for bottled water, government advisers have warned. July was England's driest July in more than 100 years, with only the summer of 1911 seeing less precipitation than the month's measly 15.8mm (0.6in) of rain. There is normally four times as much rainfall in a standard July, the Met Office has said, and the first hosepipe ban of the year will come into force this week in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, led a report four years ago that called for investment to fix and upgrade Britain's water network. He told The Observer this weekend that GBP20 billion is still needed as nearly three billion litres of water are lost every day from the system. Failure to do so, he warned, will mean a greater reliance on bottled water in the future as droughts are expected to become more common due to climate change.

More than twice the needed investment will have to be spent on distributing bottled water by truck to the nation's residents if the issue is not addressed, he added.

Holme Styes Reservoir in West YorkshireA depletion of water reserves, such as that at Holme Styes Reservoir in West Yorkshire, is leading to calls for a national hosepipe banCredit: Danny Lawson/PA

Sir John has been joined by various other parties now pushing for a national effort to better conserve water consumption. Mark Lloyd of the Rivers Trust, an agency that was part of last week's emergency National Drought Group meeting, wants to see universal water metering across the country, which advocates claim will be able to lower water usage by around a quarter. A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was the responsibility of the water companies to ensure there is enough supply.

Mark Owen, of the Angling Trust, called for the hosepipe ban, brought in by Southern Water, to be rolled out more widely in a bid to be more proactive across the country. "There is no strategic, coherent, joined-up approach. The reaction is always knee-jerk," he said.

"What happens when we get to this stage - when it is very dry and hot - is that all of a sudden usage shoots up as people fill paddling pools and water their gardens."

Britain's water situation

Drought is also plaguing British farmers, with grass and crops struggling due to the lack of rainfall.

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, told The Telegraph: "It's fair to say that the difficult season has been made even more difficult by the weather, and the lack of rain is now beginning to get seriously worrying."

He added that a lack of rain means irrigation licences are also beginning to be restricted as authorities seek to keep an eye on water levels.