05:10AM, Tuesday 21 February 2012
People are being asked to use water wisely as Berkshire was declared officially in drought yesterday.
The county was named alongside Bucks and London in a list of 16 dried-out regions by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
As Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman hosted a drought summit in London, water companies reassured the Government that water supplies will be maintained through the summer.
In a joint statement companies including Thames Water, Southern Water and South East Water said they all had contingency plans in place.
The drought is a result of low rainfall for the second winter running. In the driest four month period from October to January since 1992, the South-east has received only 73 per cent of the expected rainfall.
Deputy mayor Cllr Colin Rayner (Con; Horton and Wraysbury) farms about 2,500 acres within the Royal Borough.
He said: "In a drought we have to put our fertiliser on early to get enough rain for it to work. The crops dry out very fast in the dry soil."
Cllr Rayner has been at the National Farmers' Union (NFU) conference this week and said it had discussed the drought, including options of bringing water down from the north and growing different crops.
"The weather keeps changing and we have got to farm differently," he added. "We already grow wheat varieties that do well in the South of France so it's all about adapting."
Water companies are encouraging people to use water wisely and not waste it. Lee Dance, head of water resources and environmental at South East Water, said: "We are having to plan prudently for restricting customers’ non-essential use of water by banning the use of sprinklers and hose pipes.
"While we are not running out of water, if the situation does not dramatically improve within the next few weeks, we will need to put in place the drought measures set out in our drought plan."
He said the restrictions could come into force as early as spring time, to protect water supplies for the essentials such as drinking, washing and cooking.
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Police have closed part of Ray Mill Road West to traffic this afternoon.