LONDON, March 13 (UPI) -- Seven English water companies have announced restrictions on water use after the lowest rainfall in almost half a century in parts of the country.
Thames Water, with 8.8 million customers in London and the Thames Valley, said a "hosepipe ban" will take effect April 5, The Independent reported. Under the rules, customers will not be able to use garden sprinklers, fill swimming or paddling pools, or use water for washing cars and certain other types of cleaning.
"We know these restrictions will be unpopular, but they will save a lot of water," Martin Baggs, the head of the company, said. "A garden sprinkler uses as much water in an hour as a family of four uses in a day and when water is in short supply, the needs of families must come first."
Six other companies are introducing similar restrictions.
Southeastern England has been through two dry winters and the Center for Hydrology and Ecology said January and February rainfall was the lowest since 1963. Thames Water said groundwater levels were at near record lows.
Among the rivers affected by the dry weather is the Pang, in Berkshire. The river -- said by many to be the inspiration for Kenneth Graham's classic "The Wind in the Willows" -- is dry for 7 miles downstream from its source.