The government is holding summit talks with farm leaders after declaring a state of drought in five eastern England counties.
Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire and western Norfolk are now official suffering from drought, said DEFRA.
Areas in the south west, south east, midlands and Wales are experiencing near-drought conditions following and the spring across England and Wales since 1990.
DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman is meeting utility companies, farmers, water companies and environment groups to discuss the situation on Friday (10 June). They will review the impact of continuing dry weather and discuss what can be done to mitigate the effects by sharing resources and saving water.
“Drought has hit parts of East Anglia, with other areas in England and Wales also giving grounds for concern,” said Mrs Spelman. “Water companies are confident that supplies are high enough so that widespread restrictions to the public are unlikely.
“We’re doing all we can to reduce the impact on agriculture and wildlife, but everyone can play their part.”
Although some areas across the country have benefited from recent rainfall, this has done little to improve the situation in the driest areas. Agriculture in particular has been affected by the dry weather, with the overall picture mixed for producers and growers.
Some horticultural crops have benefited from an earlier season and high consumer demand, but the lack of rainfall is now causing more general challenges for the sector. Some cereal crops are already facing irreversible effects.
The Environment Agency is monitoring rivers and will respond quickly to pollution incidents or low oxygen levels and wildlife stranded by rivers drying up.
The organisation is working closely with farmers and other water abstractors to find ways to make water resources go further. Fenland farmers have volunteered to irrigate only at night to reduce evaporation. Some abstractors are forming co-operatives to share water.
Environment agency chief executive Paul Leinster said it was important for everyone to use water wisely. “Many rivers have low flows as a result of the dry weather, which can harm wildlife and increase the impact of pollution incidents, so we are stepping up our monitoring to be able to respond quickly.
“Low river flows also impact on business, as it abstracts millions of gallons from rivers on a daily basis and we need to ensure this is sustainable.”