Several parts of England officially declared as drought-hit
Amid prolonged heatwave conditions, large parts of England were on Friday officially declared as being drought-hit, which means restrictions will be placed on domestic and commercial water use for residents in those areas.
The affected regions are parts of southwest, southern and central England and all of eastern England. The National Drought Group, made up of senior decision makers from the Environment Agency, government, water companies and key representative groups, met earlier on Friday before announcing drought status.
"We are currently experiencing a second heatwave after what was the driest July on record for parts of the country," said UK Water Minister Steve Double.
"We are better prepared than ever before for periods of dry weather, but we will continue to closely monitor the situation, including impacts on farmers and the environment, and take further action as needed," he said.
Residents and businesses in the affected areas have been urged to be "very mindful" of the pressures on resources and told they should use water wisely.
Many parts of the UK are sweltering under record high temperatures for the time of the year and very little rainfall, with an amber extreme heat warning in place until Tuesday. Temperatures soared as high as 35 degrees Celsius in southern England, making it hotter than even the Caribbean.
The ongoing dry conditions come after the driest July on record for some areas and, combined with last month's record-breaking heatwave, have depleted rivers, reservoirs and aquifers.
According to the UK Environment Agency, there have been five consecutive months of below average rainfall across all geographic regions in England and above average temperatures. As a result, soils have dried up, hitting agriculture, water supplies and wildlife and raising the risk of wildfires.
Previously, droughts were declared in 2018 and a more severe one in 2011. Climate scientists have warned more of these extreme weather conditions in years to come as burning fossil fuels humanity's main source of energy produces carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide traps the heat of the sun in the atmosphere, driving up temperatures.