What is a drought - and what does it mean for people's lives in the UK?

A drought is expected to be declared in the South West

A prolonged period of hot weather means England is facing a drought in August if the hot and dry weather continues.

It means officials are considering imposing measures to minimise the impact of low water levels.

A drought is expected to be declared in the South West tomorrow. The last time drought was declared was in 2018.

What is a drought?

A drought is an extended period of low rainfall. It is a natural event and the impacts of a drought are wide-ranging.

Some droughts are short and intense – for example, a hot, dry summer – while others are long and take time to develop over multiple seasons.

The Environment Agency says there is no one definition of a drought but there are three main types - an environmental drought, an agricultural drought and a water supply drought.

During a drought, the Environment Agency works with water companies and councils to manage the impact on people, businesses and the environment.

What is an environmental drought?

According to the Environment Agency, an environmental drought happens when a shortage of rainfall is having a detrimental impact on the environment.

"It is likely that there will be reduced river flows, exceptionally low groundwater levels and insufficient moisture within soils," the agency added.

"These conditions often result in signs of stress for wildlife, fish and habitats.

"We normally take action to reduce environmental impact by restricting the amount of water taken from rivers and groundwater when these sources are at low levels."

What is an agricultural drought?

An agricultural drought happens when there is not enough rainfall and moisture in soils to support crop production or farming practices.

The Environment Agency says an agricultural drought often happens alongside an environmental drought - but usually before public water supplies are affected.

What is a water supply drought?

A water supply drought is declared when a shortage of rainfall is causing water companies concern about supplies for customers.

The Environment Agency says: "It tends to take longer to develop than environmental or agricultural drought because water company supply systems are developed to cope with dry weather.

"Water companies affected by drought will manage the impacts by following their drought plans. These plans set out a range of short-term actions to monitor and manage the impact of drought on customers and the environment.

"Some water companies in England use reservoirs in Wales to supply some of their customers so could be affected by a drought in Wales."

What does a drought mean for people's day-to-day lives?

Water companies can introduce temporary bans to reduce usage and protect supplies.

A company does not require any approvals to restrict uses of water but must run a period of public notice and allow for representations to be made before the restrictions come into force.

Companies can also manage water pressure in the supply system in drought-affected areas and work with business customers to help reduce their demand.