South East Water says it has ‘no choice’ but to restrict the use of hosepipes and sprinklers by its customers in parts of the county, and Kent, from August 12.
July was the driest in Kent since records began in 1836 and saw the lowest rainfall in Sussex since 1911.
South East Water said despite producing an additional 120 million litres of water a day - equivalent to supplying four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne – the demand for water has broken all previous records, including the Covid lockdown heatwave periods.
South East Water chief executive David Hinton said: “This has been a time of extreme weather conditions across England with us experiencing the driest start to the year since 1976.
"During July in the south east, we have only seen eight per cent of average rainfall for the month.
“As the long-term forecast for August and September is for similar weather we are taking this step to introduce temporary restrictions on the use of hosepipes and sprinklers to make sure we have enough water for our customers’ essential use, ensure we can serve our vulnerable customers and to protect the local environment.
“With the lack of rainfall, the environment is also under considerable pressure with our underground water aquifers below average for the time of year across Kent and Sussex and raw water reservoirs also at a lower level for the time of year.
"By taking this action now we will be able to reduce the amount of water we take from already stressed local water sources,” he added.
The temporary restrictions will mean that customers will be prevented from using hosepipes for watering their gardens, washing cars, patios and boats and from filling swimming and paddling pools.
The water company says that because of very dry ground conditions and resulting earth movement, it has seen a 50 per cent increase in bursts along its 9,000 miles of mains running deep underground below roads, motorways, railway lines, fields and rivers.
This network of pipe, laid end to end, would stretch from England to Australia.
David added: “Water is dense and to transport it successfully to homes and businesses we have to operate the system under immense pressure so some leakage is inevitable.
"Tackling leaks is a long term challenge and one that the industry has been making good progress on.
“In our supply area before the heatwave arrived we were at an all-time low having cut down on the number of leaks across our region meeting the target set by our regulator for the last 13 years in a row.
"Despite this, we’re increasing the resources available to tackle leaks and are expanding our leakage team by 20 per cent.
“I would like to thank everyone who has already taken steps to try and reduce their overall water use but despite this, demand still remains very high which is why we have taken this decision to bring in temporary use restrictions.”
Further information on exemptions to restrictions can be viewed on the company’s website at www.southeastwater.co.uk/tubs
Meanwhile, Southern Water is introducing a temporary hosepipe ban in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight from Friday (August 5).