Four water companies - Thames Water, Southern Water, Three Valleys Water and Sutton and East Surrey Water have lifted their hosepipe bans.
Environment minister Ian Pearson said: 'I have taken a close interest in the water resource position in the south east and along with the water companies have been keeping a close eye on the recharge of reservoirs and groundwater supplies during these crucial wet months.'Today's move is a common sense decision by the companies to lift the hosepipe bans where the local situation justifies it' he said.Lifting the ban will give around 13 million customers the chance to wash their cars and gardens again - perfect in the current wet weather. But the minister warned that although water stocks are improved now, the situation is precarious.He hinted that a ban could be reimposed within three months if groundwater reserves failed to recover further.'The south east relies on groundwater reserves for up to 85% of its supply, and the groundwater position is by no means as clear at the moment. It changes far more slowly, and we will only know by the end of February or beginning of March whether recharge over the winter months has been enough to protect against the risk of the drought extending into next summer. In those areas where groundwater is the main resource it is in all our interests to continue to take a precautionary approach till then,' he said.