LONDON, April 16 (UPI) -- Britain has increased its declared drought zone to an additional 17 counties, with officials saying water shortages could last through the end of the year.
The country's Environment Agency said dry weather over the past few months had left some rivers in England exceptionally low and has extended its "drought map" into the Midlands and the South West.
Before the expansion restrictions on water usage were already in place in southeast England, East Anglia, parts of the South and Yorkshire, the BBC reported.
During the past winter parts of England received less than 60 percent of the average seasonal rainfall, meteorologists said.
"A longer-term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely," Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said.
The lack of rain had caused problems for wildlife, wetlands and crop production in the Southwest and Midlands, the agency said.
"As more areas of the U.K. 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," Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said.
"It is for everyone to share the responsibility to save water."