The significant rainfall in April and early May and the reduced demand for water due to the hosepipe ban, has resulted in the first positive recharge of groundwater for over a year in the underground aquifers, from which Veolia Water takes most of its water.
The level of recharge achieved so far has been small, compared to what will be needed to restore groundwater resources to normal levels, but it has been sufficient to allow for a limited review of the exceptions given to assist businesses affected by the drought.
Mike Pocock, Water Resources Manager of Veolia Water Central said: "Following the unusually dry weather we have experienced over the 24-month period prior to April this year, we will need prolonged and substantial rainfall over a longer period to recharge our aquifers and to move us out of a drought situation.
Months of wet weather, particularly during the next autumn and winter period, will be needed to restore groundwater to normal levels.
The current temporary use ban, which includes hosepipe usage, has been assisting to reduce demand and conserve our water resources and we would like to thank our customers for their incredible support.
Unfortunately at present, we will not be relaxing the temporary use ban further, as we need to conserve our supply of water to prepare for the possibility of a third dry autumn and winter."
The revised exceptions for businesses
Any person whose business was in existence before 15 March 2012 and whose income is solely dependent on cleaning private motor-vehicles; walls or windows at domestic premises; paths or patios; or other artificial outdoor surfaces may now use a hosepipe for these purposes. These businesses were previously given a 3 month exception to consider how they might reduce their reliance on mains water until 4 July 2012, this deadline has been removed.
For areas of new turf, including the seeding of turf, or planting exceeding 25 square metres a hosepipe (connected to a metered water supply unless hand held at all times) may be used for a maximum period of 28 days from the date of turf-laying or the planting of shrubs and plants by:
(i) any person whose business was in existence before 15 March 2012 and whose income is solely dependent on the laying of turf or landscape gardening.
(ii) customers of such businesses
These businesses can use the minimum amount of water necessary to allow lawns and plants to become established - where the total area planted exceeds 25 square metres, and their customers will be able to continue to water these newly planted areas for a maximum period of 28 days from the date of turf-laying, seeding or planting.
Drought conditions in detail
The rainfall since April has been good for the environment and has reduced demand for water, but unfortunately has only done a little to help replenish groundwater supplies.
Some of the other water companies which have bans in place have substantial surface water resources, such as rivers to draw on, which have mostly returned to normal levels.
Veolia Water Central takes most of its water from natural underground chalk reservoirs, called aquifers.
Following the unusually dry weather we have experienced over the past 24 months prior to April, groundwater levels in these aquifers remain very low .
We have seen only a small top up from the rainfall we have experienced since April, as most of this is lost to plant growth, evaporation or run off to rivers between April and September. The critical period for recharging our aquifers is between October and March each year.
We will need prolonged and substantial rainfall over next autumn and winter to recharge our aquifers and to move us out of a drought situation.