Infrastructure advisers are calling for a national hose ban and mandatory water metering as the nation prepares for drought.
The National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) has said that water must start being better managed across the UK or the country could face a future of queuing for emergency supplies in bottles “from the back of lorries”.
The government also needs to invest around £20 billion in the country’s water supply equipment, NIC chairman Sir John Armitt told The Observer.
“You have to pay for (water), one way or another,” he said.
“It could be investing in new reservoirs or moving water around the country, as well as stopping leaks.”
The committee’s warning – which has been backed by the Rivers Trust – comes as the first snake ban of the year comes into effect following the recent heatwave and one of the driest starts to the year on record.
Southern Water is to introduce the temporary ban for its customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight from Friday 5 August.
This means that hoses cannot be used to water gardens or clean cars, and ornamental ponds and swimming pools must not be filled.
The restriction is the first to be introduced in the region since 2012, and Southern Water says river flows have been reduced by 25% as a result of one of the driest years on record.
A hose ban was also imposed on Friday on the Isle of Man by Manx Utilities.
The Rivers Trust and Angling Trust echoed the NIC’s call for more conscious water use across the country as the situation is predicted to become more serious in the coming years.
Mark Lloyd, of the Rivers Trust, told The Observer: “There needs to be a nationally co-ordinated advertising campaign to reduce water use and universal water metering.
“Low river flows are disastrous for wildlife, and ultimately we need to take much more care of this incredibly precious resource.”
Mark Owen, of the Angling Trust, criticized the government for its lack of planning for extreme weather, telling The Observer: “There is no strategic, coherent, joined-up approach. The reaction is always knee-jerk.
“What happens when we get to this stage — when it’s really dry and hot — is that usage suddenly shoots up as people fill up wading pools and water their gardens.”
Across the UK, it has so far been the driest July since 1984, with an average of 1.5 inches (37.7 mm) of rain, making it the eighth driest on records dating back to 1836.
The Met Office said not only has it been a dry July, but figures also show England has had its driest eight-month period from November 2021 to June 2022 since 1976, when the country struggled with severe drought.
During this period, just 421mm of rain fell across England – less than three-quarters (74%) of the 1991-2020 average of 568mm.
This year the temperature reached 38.1C in Santon Downham in Suffolk on July 18 and a record high of 40.3C in Coningsby in Lincolnshire on July 19.
South-east England had 24 days of zero average rainfall between June 1 and July 24 this year, Met Office figures show. In the same period in 1976, the region experienced 36 days without rain.