Drought conditions in parts of England could remain beyond Spring 2023, according to the National Drought Group.
Projections suggest the average rainfall over winter will not be enough to prevent drought conditions in some areas of the country next year.
For the first time in six months, average rainfall occurred across most of England during September, but water levels continued to decrease at all reservoirs, according to the Environment Agency, and the rainfall has not changed the underlying drought situation caused by the dry weather seen over recent months.
River and groundwater levels remain low, soils remain drier than usual and most of the country remains in drought, the Environment Agency said. Essential water supplies remain safe throughout the country but millions of people remain under hosepipe bans.
Water companies have suggested drought conditions will remain beyond spring in some areas.
The news comes after a meeting of the National Drought Group on Friday, in which it discussed how to sustain essential water supply in preparation for next spring and summer.
The group is made up of representatives from the government, water companies, the Met Office and groups including National Farmers Union, Canal and River Trust and the RSPB.
It is expected to meet again later this autumn.
The Environment Agency is responsible for determining whether an area is officially considered to be in drought or not, and is responsible for protecting the environment during a drought and overseeing the actions water companies take to ensure the public supply of water.
The agency currently classifies Devon and Cornwall/Isles of Scilly; East Anglia; Hertfordshire and North London; Kent and South London; Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire; East Midlands; West Midlands; Solent and South Downs; Thames; Wessex; Yorkshire as in drought. Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire; North East; Cumbria and Lancashire are classed as being in prolonged dry weather status.
England had its driest start to the year since 1976 and the driest July since 1935. Very dry soils mean that rainfall will take longer to replenish groundwater and reservoir water levels.
Environment Agency chief executive and National Drought Group chair, Sir James Bevan said: “Our lives, livelihoods and nature all depend on one thing – water.”
“Climate change and population growth mean we need to take action now to ensure we have enough over the coming decades to manage everyday supplies, and more intense drought events.”