Drought Could Last Until 2013 Despite Rain
The drought across England is expected to last beyond Christmas, despite flooding rains forecast for the driest parts of the country.
A further 17 counties have become official drought zones, as the Environment Agency extends the country's "drought map" into the Midlands and the South West.
The Agency said dry weather over the past few months has left some rivers in England exceptionally low.
Warning of the prospect of the current drought stretching into 2013, Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: "A longer-term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely."
But Sky meteorologist Chris England said these drought-affected areas are still at risk of flashing flooding - but not enough to break the drought.
Heavy rain is forecast over the coming months, however the water is more likely to disappear into rivers, not soak into the ground, England said.
The Environment Agency, which is liaising with businesses, farmers and water companies to meet the challenges of a continued drought, had already declared drought zones in London, the South East, East Anglia and parts of Yorkshire.
The new official drought zones are Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, parts of Hampshire and most of Wiltshire.
Exceptionally dry conditions across the major part of England are the result of a lack of rainfall over the past two winters, which has left rivers and ground waters depleted.
Officials stress that public water supplies are unlikely to be affected by the ongoing drought but are reiterating calls from consumers to combat the dry conditions by using scarce water wisely.
A hosepipe ban has already been imposed on millions of people across southern and eastern England due to the drought.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "As more areas of the UK move into drought it is vital that we use less water to protect the public's water supply in the driest areas of the country."
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