A drought has been declared in parts of England as temperatures soar amid another heat wave, as the Met Office warned of a storm to come in the following days.
The UK had its hottest day last month as temperatures hit over 40C, and the Met Office has put in place a new amber heat warning that will last until Sunday.
Record temperatures have resulted in a lack of rainfall in recent months, with England receiving just 35% (23.1mm) of its average rainfall for July 2022, Wales 53% (52mm), Northern Ireland North 51% (45.8mm). Scotland recorded 81% (83.6mm) of average rainfall in July.
Dramatic satellite images showed the effect of the dry weather, with the UK’s generally lush green landscape left dry and beige.
A drought has been declared for South West, South and Central England and East England, following the driest July on record in some areas and the driest first half since 1976.
It will see the Environment Agency and water companies implement more of their plans to manage the impacts of low water levels, which may include actions such as banning garden hoses.
The Met Office issued a yellow thunderstorm warning on Friday, which could lead to disruption and flooding after sweltering temperatures.
Read more: Dramatic satellite image shows parched UK amid extreme heat warning
Read more: What is an orange heat warning and how dangerous is it?
When will it rain next?
The Met Office has issued a four-day amber warning for extreme heat in parts of England and Wales from Thursday to Sunday.
Forecasters then issued a yellow storm warning covering much of the UK and Northern Ireland, with warnings that some homes could experience flooding, lightning or high winds.
Rains are forecast for northern and eastern regions on Monday, giving plants and reservoirs in the region some much-needed relief from dry conditions.
The south was warned to expect stormy conditions from the same date, with forecasters warning of a “low risk” of thunderstorms forming.
However, the south east is likely to be the last region to see rainfall, with none predicted in the Met Office’s long-term forecast.
The Met Office said: “This period will see the deterioration of the hot, sunny and dry weather of the past few days, with conditions becoming increasingly unstable across the UK.
“Showers will spread from the west and south next week, at times heavy and stormy, although drier spells with sunny spells are still likely in between.
“At the same time, temperatures will gradually decrease to near normal in August. Later in the period, more changeable weather will prevail with a risk of heavy showers or thunderstorms continuing, but also clear periods and dry in between.
“Returning to hot or very hot towards the end of the period for much of England and Wales, possibly becoming locally warm in parts of the south and south-east.”
Are we in a drought period?
A drought was officially declared in England on Friday morning, with people in South West, South and Central England and East England being urged to be water efficient.
This is the first drought declared in the UK since 2018.
The National Drought Group, made up of government and agency officials, water companies and other groups such as the National Farmers Union (NFU), met on Friday to discuss the prolonged dry weather.
A drought will see the Environment Agency and water companies implement more of their plans to manage the impacts of low water levels, which may include actions such as banning garden hoses.
Watch: Areas of UK hit by water shortages as heatwave hits
Thames Water, which supplies water to 15 million customers in London and the Thames Valley, has become the latest water company to signal it will ban garden hoses in the face of the hot, dry summer .
South East Water and Southern Water have already announced garden hose bans – after the driest first half since 1976, the south east of England has recorded 144 days with little or no rain so far in 2022.
Yorkshire Water has become the latest company to announce a garden hose ban, with the restrictions taking effect on August 26.