Parts of eastern England declared drought-stricken
LONDON (Reuters) - Parts of the East Anglia region in eastern England have been declared to be in a state of drought after some areas of the country had their driest spring on record, the British government said on Friday.
Declaring a region to be in a state of drought allows water companies to place curbs on the use of water.
Areas in southwest, southeast and central England and Wales are also experiencing near-drought conditions following prolonged sunny and dry weather from March.
"Drought has hit parts of East Anglia, with other areas in England and Wales also giving grounds for concern," Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said in a statement.
"Water companies are confident that supplies are high enough so that widespread restrictions to the public are unlikely. We're doing all we can to reduce the impact on agriculture and wildlife, but everyone can play their part," she added.
Spring has been the driest on record in South East and Central Southern England, and the driest right across England and Wales since 1990.
Utility companies, farmers, water companies and environment groups were due to meet on Friday to discuss what can be done to share resources, save water and prepare for dry conditions.
"What will happen now will be a focus on the prioritization of water," Spelman told BBC radio.
She said about 100 farmers had already agreed to reduce the amount of water they extracted from waterways in the region.
Spelman said the government would produce a water "white paper," or policy document, by the end of this year that would look at the rules for taking water from rivers because climate change was bringing droughts and floods more regularly.
"We need to build resilience," she said.
Other parts of northern Europe are also suffering drought, with France planning to spend up to 1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) to help farmers.
(Reporting by Keith Weir, Adrian Croft; editing by James Jukwey)
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