Hosepipe bans should have been introduced sooner, an MP has said, amid claims the UK could officially declare a drought this week.
Sir Robert Goodwill, the chairman of the environment, food and rural affairs select committee, told the BBC that water companies may have held off on introducing hosepipe bans as they cost them money.
“I think hosepipe bans make a lot of sense,” he told the BBC's Today programme.
“I think the water companies may have been holding off and maybe should’ve done this sooner. 20 years ago when we had hosepipe bans before, a lot of people were actually unmetered, they just paid their water rate.”
“Now the situation is it actually costs water companies to impose a hosepipe ban and therefore I suspect they would have held off longer than they would have done 25 years ago.”
His comments come as the UK is preparing to declare a drought this week, according to reports in the i newspaper.
A drought is defined by the Environment Agency as when a shortage of rainfall causes water companies concern about their ability to supply their customers.
Britain last declared a drought in 2012, when seven water companies introduced hosepipe bans that covered 20 million people.
Currently, there are around 3.5 million people have been barred from using hosepipes to wash cars or replenish gardens amid drought conditions. It comes as Britain is braced for another heatwave, with highs of up to 35C expected this week.
Thames Water, the UK's largest water company with 15 million customers in London and the Thames Valley, has warned it may need to impose restrictions unless the capital starts to see above-average rainfall in what forecasters say is an “unusually dry” August.
The Met Office has warned there is “very little meaningful rain” in the forecast for dry areas of England over the next two weeks.
“The current conditions are very unusual, but we have systems in place to respond and they are working. Water companies have a duty to ensure adequate supply and they have assured me that essential supplies are safe,” he wrote.
“In accordance with their drought plans, water companies across the country have rightly taken action to mitigate the effects of this prolonged dry weather using the range of tools available to them. I strongly urge others to do the same.”