The Liberal Democrats said water companies should also update the public on how many leaks have been fixed
The government should declare a national drought emergency and hold weekly televised press conferences to update the public on guidance to limit water use, the Liberal Democrats have said.
The party said there had been “mixed messages” in recent weeks, and declaring a drought emergency would see a cabinet minister take responsibility for ensuring rivers, chalk streams and reservoirs do not dry up.
It should include a strategy to ensure farmers can water their crops, and resources are directed to parts of the country which have the least amount of water, the party said.
Water companies should also attend any press conferences that were held to update the public on how many leaks have been fixed during the drought. England’s water companies currently leak up to a quarter of their supply a day, according to analysis by The Times.
The call comes as temperatures are forecast to climb steadily over the coming days, with thermometers likely to reach at least 33C for four consecutive days from Thursday.
“For years this Government has let water companies get away with scandal after scandal. From pumping raw sewage into our rivers to not even bothering to fix leaking pipes,” said Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Environment spokesperson. “Ministers need to get a grip starting by declaring a National Drought Emergency and giving themselves power to move resources where they are needed most.”
“A failure to act now will see rivers dry up, farmers unable to water their crops, and millions of people facing unnecessary restrictions.
The prolonged dry weather and persistently dry forecast have raised the spectre of drought, as farmers and environmentalists say the dry weather is already affecting harvests and ecosystems.
Climate scientists have said heatwaves will become more frequent and droughts more impactful as humans continue to pump out planet-heating greenhouse gases into the atmosphere mainly by burning fossil fuels.
Thames Water became the latest water company to announce that it would have to impose restrictions, as water companies struggle to keep up with demand during the hot, dry weather.
Dozens of residents in an Oxfordshire village ran out of water this week forcing Thames Water to dispatch water tankers and bottled water to the area.
The Independent has contacted the government and Water UK, the industry body, for comment.