WATER companies should act to restrict usage quicker in future to conserve supplies in times of drought, West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has warned.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said stocks should not be allowed to fall as perilously low as they did last autumn when Wimbleball Lake, on Exmoor, dropped to just 17 per cent full.

Thanks to prolonged rain and helped by water being pumped up to it from the River Exe, Wimbleball has quickly re-filled and this week was back to 100 per cent capacity.

However, Mr Liddell-Grainger said with rainfall patterns becoming more unpredictable as a result of climate change, water companies needed to start becoming far more cautious about conserving supplies.

Ironically, the same heavy rain which helped replenish Wimbleball sparked widespread flooding problems in the eastern end of Mr Liddell-Grainger’s constituency.

“Happily, dry weather returned just in time and we averted a potential catastrophe,” he said.

“But what is becoming more and more apparent is the fact that our traditional and much more predictable weather patterns have been supplanted by a completely new regime.

Wimbleball Exmoor water reservoir drought
How Wimbleball Lake looked at the height of the drought last autumn. (Cristina Harris)

“That means water companies can no longer rely on regular rainfall throughout the winter to top up storage, while late winter and spring months are now far drier than they ever used to be.

“Given that there has been no significant investment in new reservoirs for some decades while demand generated by house-building has continued to climb, we are in no position to be complacent about water stocks.

“I know thousands of consumers were very nervous indeed last year when the level of Wimbleball fell so low and the possibility of taps running dry was being discussed.

“The water companies have a clear duty to conserve supplies to avoid having to introduce such emergency measures and their strategy should be to prepare for the worst to happen rather than merely hoping for the best.

“At the same time I would urge consumers to do whatever they can to avoid water waste, whether by taking showers rather than baths or installing water butts and recycling domestic waste water for their gardens.”