Ministers warned yesterday that there could be serious water shortages in the South East this year after the Meteorological Office said that England and Wales had the driest January for almost a decade.
The South East and central southern England had already suffered the fourth driest year on record last year and the driest year since 1973.
The driest counties, Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey, Middlesex and Kent, have received only 70 per cent of their normal rainfall over the past 15 months. Some parts of Southern England and Wales had less than half of their average rainfall in January, according to the Met Office.
Southern Water has already started pumping water from the River Medway into Bewl Water near Lamberhurst, after it reached its lowest-ever level.