The Environment Agency has been forced to introduce irrigation restrictions in some parts of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

A complete ban on irrigation, understood to affect four licencees, has been introduced on the Bassingbourn Brook in South Cambridgeshire.

Hundreds of abstractors in parts of Essex, South Suffolk and Norfolk (River Yare catchment) have also been put on formal restrictions that only allow them to take 50% of their licensed amount or irrigate every other day.

A spokeswoman from the agency said farmers had been helpful in that they had been cutting back on the water taken for some time.

“But it has come to the stage, where we have to put formal restrictions in place.”

Paul Hammett, NFU environment adviser in East Anglia, said the union had worked closely with the agency for several months to prepare for the situation.

“What we are trying to do is avoid an all out ban.

We’re at a crucial stage in terms of the growth cycle of potatoes and other salad crops.

Farmers are voluntarily abstracting much less water than they are legally entitled to in an attempt to eke out supplies.”