Temporary water use bans have been confirmed and will come into effect from April 5th, following another unseasonably warm and dry month.
March saw less than half the average rainfall expected for the month, combined with high temperatures, a repeat of the trend for the last two winters which have also seen well below average rainfall.
South East Water is among six other water companies that have announced temporary use bans.
Initially, the company had proposed some concessions, including allowing those over 65-years-old to use a hosepipe for garden watering, and also offered a concession to allow the watering of newly laid turf for 28 days with a hosepipe
However, as a result of earlier consultation responses, and following a record breaking dry March, South East Water has now removed these concessions, while others remain in place.
Lee Dance, Head of Water Resources and Environmental at South East Water, said: “As a result of our consultation, many customers, including a number who are over 65-years-old, contacted us to say they wanted to help play their part during this drought by putting the hosepipe away. We also share their views that many of these customers can still use a watering can on their garden plants.
“However, in common with other water companies, we will allow the use of hosepipes by customers who have severe mobility problems and so already hold a current Blue Badge, as issued by their local authority.
“The restrictions are a regrettable, but necessary, step to protect supplies for the coming months for essential use of water by our customers for drinking, washing and cooking and to minimise the impact on the water environment.”
South East Water has been heartened by the positive response it has received from customers, who understand the seriousness of the situation and that efforts to save water, no matter how small, can together add up to a significant difference.
However, the company continues to warn that if the situation does not significantly improve, it may have to remove existing concessions, and introduce even wider restrictions, to protect both customers’ water supplies and the water environment.
Mr Dance added: “We do not take the introduction of these restrictions lightly and are keen to work with those affected to help make the impact as minimal as possible - but we must all do our bit to save water.
“Our role during this drought is to help ensure that the available water resources are used sparingly, both by us and our customers. We are actively giving people all of the information and advice they need, so that they can change how they use water in some areas of their life now, to ensure supplies are available for the essential needs – such as drinking, washing and cooking - later this year.
“We will be working with our local communities to make sure we all have enough water available for when we'll need it most. We can't make it rain, but we can all do our bit now. Water companies and customers have a track record of working exceptionally well together to make the best possible use of water.”
This decision comes after one of the driest two-year periods since records began. It follows the announcement on 20th February by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman that the South East of England, as well as parts of the East Midlands and Eastern England, are all officially in drought.
Customers will be prevented from using hosepipes for watering their gardens, washing cars, patios and boats and from filling swimming and paddling pools, ponds and fountains.
Customers have until 4th April 2012 to respond to the revised restrictions before they are introduced on 5th April 2012.